Monday, March 5, 2012

Govt braces for fuel backlash

Govt braces for fuel backlash
Bagus BT Saragih and Rabby Pramudatama, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 03/05/2012 8:47 AM
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The government has stepped up security and intelligence surveillance following rumors that massive rallies staged to protest fuel price hikes could be used as a pretext for a coup led by a former general.

Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam said that the government would take decisive measures to deal with any coup plot. “A coup is against the Constitution. We will crush it,” he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Dipo also said that the Army (TNI) and the National Police were solidly behind President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and that any efforts to mount a coup would come from outside their ranks.

“As far as I know, the military and the police are currently solid. If there are generals talking about a coup, I would guess they are bluffing,” he said.

Late last week, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto confirmed the government had begun rolling out plans to anticipate a plot “to oust President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono before the end of his tenure in 2014”. Djoko, however, declined to give details of the putative coup.

Earlier, Ramadhan Pohan, a senior lawmaker from the Democratic Party suggested that Gen. (ret) Wiranto, chairman of the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura), was behind the moves to stage a coup against Yudhoyono by capitalizing on public anger over government plans to raise fuel prices.

The government is proposing two policy scenarios to avoid a ballooning state budget amid soaring global oil prices. The options are either to raise subsidized fuel prices by Rp 1,500 (16 US cents) a liter or to limit the subsidies to Rp 2,000 per liter.

Wiranto denied the accusation on Sunday, saying that the attack on him was aimed as a provocation. “I regret that a politician like Ramadhan can make such a slanderous statement,” Wiranto said.

He also said that a coup against Yudhoyono would serve no purpose for his party-political efforts.

“If I planned to stage a coup against the President, why would I establish a political party and contest elections? An unconstitutional transfer of power would only harm the people,” Wiranto said.

Hanura lawmakers have repeatedly voiced their opposition to the proposed fuel price increases saying they would only add to the burden on the poor.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker TB Hasanuddin, a retired TNI general, said that the government was overreacting to the planned rallies against any hike in fuel prices.

“The rallies will be sporadic in nature and will not be powerful enough to serve as a pretext for a coup against the President,” he said.

Hasanuddin said that Djoko had exaggerated the coup threat.

Separately, Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) lawmaker Abdul Hakim said his party would continue to support Yudhoyono’s presidency despite the party’s stance in rejecting the plans to raise fuel prices.

“As a member of the government coalition, our party has signed a political contract with the President to support the government until the end of his tenure,” he said.

Abdul called on Yudhoyono to hold a meeting to hear opinions from party leaders in the coalition regarding the plans.

Meanwhile, less than a month before the government introduces any new fuel prices, local residents have begun complaining about a scarcity of gasoline.

In Lampung, residents and motorists said that gasoline was increasingly difficult to find along the Lampung section of the Trans Sumatra highway. Some reported paying Rp 6,000 for one liter of premium gasoline, higher than the official price of Rp 4,500.

In Palu, Central Sulawesi, prices of basic commodities, including sugar, have started to rise in the past few days ahead of the anticipated fuel price rises.

Dolly Sengkey, a trader in Palu, said that he was forced to raise sugar prices because distributors had started to charge him more, citing the fuel price hike as the reason.

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