Indonesia: Student demonstrators shot by plice
September 20, 2011, 4:45 pm

The police defended their decision to fire on protesters on Wednesday, saying the demonstration was illegal.

Hundreds of student demonstrators clashed with police in Menteng, Central Jakarta, as citywide protests marked the first anniversary of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s second term.

Demonstrators burned tires and pictures of the president, and police responded with tear gas and warning shots.

One protester, Restu Farel, 20, from Bung Karno University, was shot in the leg.

Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Sutarman said on Friday the decision to open fire was made at the discretion of the officers at the scene.

“It wasn’t an order, it was left up to their discretion, which is granted to them under the prevailing laws,” he said.

He added the shooting was the correct thing to do as the protesters did not previously seek the police’s permission for the rally.

“If they’d officially notified us about the rally, we would have been able to better secure the area and prevent a clash,” Sutarman said.

The police chief also rebuffed allegations that officers at the scene had breached protocol by firing live rounds rather than rubber bullets.

“While it’s true that one protester was shot with live ammo, that shot wasn’t fired by any of the 70 crowd-control officers we deployed there,” he said.

“None of them had firearms loaded with live rounds. The shot was fired by an officer who was helping the crowd-control unit at the time.”

He added the police’s internal affairs unit is now investigating the officer, who he said “might have been from a subprecinct police station.”

“We’re also taking eyewitness testimonies from the other demonstrators who were there,” Sutarman said. “The investigation is still being processed.”

Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar said the police formed a fact-finding team to investigate the incidents that led to the shooting.

The team includes officers from the Jakarta Police’s internal affairs unit, crime division and intelligence unit and the Central Jakarta Police headquarters.

Sixteen officers have already been questioned, nine of whom were carrying firearms at the time of the incident, Boy said.

He added police had also questioned two civilians, “both of whom are known to hang out regularly in the area.”

Police also plan to question several demonstrators “so that we get a balanced picture.”

“We’re trying to piece together an accurate chronology of the events that transpired that day, from morning until 3:30 p.m., when the shooting occurred,” he said.

He added the fact-finding team would be objective in its task of uncovering how and why the shooting occurred.

“We’ll investigate this case objectively and we will be transparent with the probe. We will determine the accountability of both the officers and the demonstrators as we look at their actions,” he said.

Boy also said doctors had managed to remove the projectile from Restu’s leg.

“The projectile is now undergoing a ballistics test at the National Police’s forensics lab.”

Meanwhile, the police have been criticized by politicians and activists for the shooting.

House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Pramono Anung called the shooting unnecessary.

“It was too much, even if they had used rubber bullets,” he said. “The demonstration was within a reasonable scale. That the police opened fire, that was too much.”

Anis Matta, deputy House speaker from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), also condemned the police shooting.

“There is an excessive paranoia from the government in dealing with the October 20 protest; the response was a bit too much,” he said.

Also on Thursday, Poengky Indarti, director of the human rights watchdog Imparsial, said the police should not have used armed force on the students.

“They could have used a water cannon if they wanted to stop them, instead of harming the students,” she said.

“Police should have used a persuasive approach to the students instead of shooting them. This is totally incorrect.”

She said the shooting showed the police force was not an independent body.