Indonesian leader says locked gates contributed to deaths of up to 200 people
Jakarta – A day after hundreds of people were killed by a stampede in a busy shopping area in Jakarta, Indonesia’s president appeared to blame the crowds for the deaths and urged citizens to remain calm.
The death toll of up to 200 people, injured dozens of others and destroyed the upscale Nusantara shopping district in the centre of Java island on Monday has raised the spectre of a “Jakarta suicide” that could result in a crackdown on anti-government demonstrations, analysts say.
The worst was avoided but the aftermath still casts a shadow over the government, which is also under pressure over its response to the outbreak of political turmoil following the re-election of a charismatic Islamist president in 2017.
Indonesia’s former president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, was in talks to hold a post-election conference centrepiece at the presidential palace for Sunday, but was forced to cancel after fears of a repeat of the 2008 protests which led to the ousting of his predecessor Suharto.
Bambang has since become chairman of the Constitutional and Justice Committee and was due to attend an urgent cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
“Jakarta will be left with a lasting scar,” said Jakubusi, a Jakarta-based journalist.
“It is likely to be a trauma for the nation, similar to the ‘Jakarta suicide’ of 2008, or to the violence that erupted in the run-up to last year’s presidential election. What happens next can only be guessed at.
“Jakarta will find a way to overcome the trauma, but it is going to hurt. The nation will feel the burn.”
Sixty-four people died in the stampede after a group of about 1,000 demonstrators gathered in central Jakarta on Sunday to demand an end to corruption and alleged corruption by Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok.’
At the time of the crisis almost 7,000 people had been at the demonstration, with authorities believing most were related and were in fact part of the estimated 400,000 demonstrators who took over the central area, including the Nusantara shopping mall, the national capital’s most famous monument.
The death toll rose by 20 the following day when three people were reported killed in a single car bomb attack targeting a military convoy on the