The gist of the argument is that street demonstrations and protests cause traffic jams, traffic jams make people late for work and negatively impacts on business, these negative impacts cost money, and money lost means investors are likely to rethink whether or not to invest in Indonesia. Yeah, right! Pull the other chain in plays Dixie!
The whole point of protesting is to exercise a democratic right to do so and to hold your government accountable. Can it be inconvenient, yes. Should it be inconvenient, yes! The reality is that the only time some of us might ever think about an issue is if it directly impacts upon us. Being caught in a traffic jam and being late impacts upon us. But instead of being angry at the protesters, perhaps this anger should be directed towards the government that allowed conditions to get to a point where people felt that their only recourse was to demonstrate and protest.
So, the protesters threw some Molotov cocktails. This is hardly a reason to ban protests altogether! It is an excuse though to stifle the democratic rights of the masses. Those that break the law by perpetrating violence threw such methods as the destruction of property must be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent permissible under the law. Peaceful demonstrations no matter how inconvenient must be permitted. These demonstrations and protests are legitimate means of expression and calling the government to account.
The Jakarta Post singles out the recent actions relating to the proposed and now happened fuel price hike. The protesters have legitimate concerns here as to their ability to live without additional government assistance and the proportional impact of the price rise on the poor compared to the more affluent.
I have not seen the Jakarta Post jumping up and down about the inconvenience caused by protests staged by the PKS in support of Palestine! This is also a worthy cause, but if we are going to characterize the argument into one of convenience, then any protest in support of any aim that results in a traffic jam should be frowned upon. Once again this clearly misses the point of protesting and taking your demands to the street.
The Jakarta Post's solution to this problem is to restrict protests and demonstrations to public parks such as in and around Monas. Why not go the whole nine yards and allocated special days for protests to be held in the out-of-the-way surrounds of the Ragunan Zoo. The Jakarta Post then goes even further with this gem:
"It is high time for Indonesians to avoid such past practices for changing the state leadership to the more modern, constitutional means: the five-yearly democratic election."
This I am guessing is a suggestion that protests and demonstrations should be banned altogether and the only permissible protest by the community must come at the ballot box and only every five years. Maybe the Jakarta Post should be telling Zimbabweans that the best way forward is not street protests but accepting your fate and then voting the office holders out at the next election.
If the Jakarta Post is not in the mood to go that far, why not editorialize something much closer to home such as the inept generals of the Burmese regime, who in their citizens' moment of most critical need they are ummmming and ahhhing about whether or not to let foreign aid workers in. Maybe street protests, although sometimes violent and violently suppressed by authorities are the best way to bring attention to one's plight.
The right to protest is a democratic right and this must not be curtailed for reasons of convenience. Maybe if we all paid a little more attention and demanded a lot more of our elected governments then protests would occur a whole lot less frequently! The photograph is courtesy of the Jakarta Post and photographer Ricky Yudhistira.