May 29, 2019 – 12:03
By Ed Davies and Agustinus Beo Da Costa
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian authorities believe different groups coordinated plans to exploit political rallies last week to cause chaos, which included a bid to create “martyrs” by shooting protesters, President Joko Widodo’s chief of staff said.
Eight people were killed and more than 900 wounded in some of the worst civil unrest in the capital in decades last week after rallies by supporters of defeated presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto descended into clashes with security forces.
Security officials suspect the violence, which broke out after Widodo was confirmed the winner of last month’s poll, was organised by a number groups, including one linked to Islamic State and another to a retired special forces general accused of smuggling weapons to Jakarta
“There was a correlation between them from our intelligence information,” Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko, a retired armed forces chief, told Reuters.
“We already know the field coordinators,” he said, adding that investigators were trying to pinpoint the masterminds behind the plans and financial backers.
Police have said that envelopes of cash carried by some arrested rioters indicated mobs were paid to cause trouble.
Ahead of last week’s unrest, police rounded up dozens of suspected militants, some of whom authorities said planned to detonate bombs during political protests.
Police have also arrested six people suspected of plotting to assassinate state officials and at least one opposition figure on treason charges and for spreading fake news.
Prabowo’s political party, Gerindra, has denied any links to the violence and complained that authorities were trying to pin the blame for the riots on him.
Moeldoko, who uses one name, described one of the groups planning attacks as being “well trained” and said police had found guns including a sniper rifle that they believed were intended to be used to kill protesters so police would take the blame.
In response, he said authorities had deliberately ensured that police and the army were not equipped with live ammunition.
“This was to counter if something (happened), to show it doesn’t come from us,” said Moeldoko.
Fadli Zon, deputy chairman of Gerindra, last week accused police of initiating an attack on protesters and said he found 171 bullets, including live rounds, when he visited the area where most deaths occurred last Wednesday.
Moeldoko said autopsies were still being conducted but said an early indication from the laboratory suggested that the rotation of a bullet that hit a victim was to the right and the mobile police brigade used weapons with bullets that spun in the opposite direction.
“It could mean that there are other armed groups that have not been detained. Because from the beginning they wanted to create martyrs,” he said.
Moeldoko denied that government actions, which included for the first time in Indonesia temporary curbs on social media aimed at stopping hoax stories being spread, were repressive.
“I have a strong belief that if democracy is not guarded by strong laws, constitutional instruments, then the tendency for anarchy is very high,” he said.
Asked whether Indonesia’s young democracy was mature enough to ride out these tensions, he said that while the events had been “quite shocking” they should not cause undue alarm.
“In my opinion, there is nothing that we should be afraid of from the recent incidents,” he said, adding that security forces could deal with the situation and there was no “acute disease in our democracy”.
(Reporting by Ed Davies; Editing by Nick Macfie)