Hundreds of workers and students in Indonesia rallied on Tuesday to demand the government to cancel fuel price hikes, a politically sensitive issue that has triggered past unrest.
Members of trade unions, farmers, fishermen, temporary teachers and domestic workers protested in front of the parliament building in the capital Jakarta and provincial governors’ offices against the fuel price increase of 30 percent that President Joko Widodo announced last Saturday.
He said it was his last option as the Southeast Asian country’s energy subsidy had tripled this year to 502 trillion rupiah ($34 billion) from its original budget, triggered by rising global prices of oil and gas.
The rally also demanded an increase in the minimum wage next year, said Said Iqbal, president of the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions.
He said the protest in Jakarta and 25 provinces was only the beginning and would go on until December. The workers are also considering a national strike unless their demands are met.
The hike — the first in eight years — raised the price of gasoline from about 51 cents to 67 cents per liter and diesel from 35 cents to 46 cents.
In Makassar, capital of South Sulawesi province, dozens of students who rallied on Monday and Tuesday said the increase would especially burden the most vulnerable who are yet to fully fully recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The government has subsidized fuel for decades in Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 270 million people. Past increases in the price of fuel and other goods have triggered student protests and in 1998, mass riots that helped topple longtime the dictator Suharto.
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