Governor Anies Baswedan said his administration would forge ahead with a plan to relocate street vendors from Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta, despite violent resistance to the move late last week. (Antara Photo/Galih Pradipta)

Authorities Blame Local Thugs for Chaos During Forced Relocation of Street Vendors in Tanah Abang

BY :AICHI HALIK

JANUARY 21, 2019

Jakarta. Governor Anies Baswedan said his administration would forge ahead with a plan to relocate street vendors from Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta, despite violent resistance to the move late last week.

The subdistrict, which is home to Southeast Asia's biggest textile market, is popular among street vendors who crowd the sidewalks in the hope of cashing in on the thousands of people flocking to the area every day.

The provincial government, citing local regulations on public spaces and zoning, decided to clear the streets along commercial buildings in the area.

"The relocation is to proceed; we will do it professionally. We expect the public to respect our field officers," Anies told journalists on Monday.

Efforts by the Municipal Police (Satpol PP) to forcefully remove the street vendors and seize their wares were met by chaos on Thursday last week, when they started pelting officers with stones.

Vested Interests

No casualties were reported in the incident, but it left a mounting social problem that may soon escalate. Central Jakarta Deputy Mayor Irwandi blamed last week's clashes on local thugs, known as preman, whom he said consider the relocation of the street vendors as a threat to their livelihoods.

"If we clean up the area in Tanah Abang, they will lose their incomes, because they usually extort fees from the street vendors trading on the pedestrian walkways and on the side of the road," Irwandi told wartakota.tribunnews.com.

Street vendors seen in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta. (SP Photo/Muhammad Adimaja)

He admitted that there was a lilkihood of further conflict, but said the local government would stick to its guns to rid the streets in the area of illegal traders.

"We will continue. There is no way pedestrian areas may be occupied by street vendors," Irwandi said, citing a 2007 provincial government regulation.

The Jakarta administration has been struggling to ease chronic traffic congestion in the area caused by the presence of the vendors. Last week's clashes resulted in traffic along Jalan K.H. Mas Mansyur, Jalan Jatibaru Raya and Jalan Jati Bunder grinding to a complete halt.

"The regulation is clear; we have prepared a skybridge and a large building in Tanah Abang. We are not afraid [to act]," Irwandi said.

Arrests

Governor Anies said last week's incident should discourage people from engaging in illegal activities. Police arrested three people, two of whom were declared suspects for having provoked the conflict.

"The bottom line is that there should be no thuggery," Anies said.

Tanah Abang Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr Lukman Cahyono said the two suspects will be charged with violating Article 212 of the criminal code, which carries a maximum sentence of 16 months' imprisonment.

"They were recorded in a video provoking and taking part in acts of violence against officers on duty," he said, adding that the police were still investigating the case, but that there could be further arrests.

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