Saturday, September 30, 2023

Police Face Criticism as Tear Gas Munitions Land at School during Rempang Island Riot

September 8, 2023 | 2:32 pm
A police armored vehicle drives along a road on Rempang Island where protesters burn tires and put up barricades to oppose relocation, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023.  (B-Universe photo/Egi Agral Munanda Rafnu)
A police armored vehicle drives along a road on Rempang Island where protesters burn tires and put up barricades to oppose relocation, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023. (B-Universe photo/Egi Agral Munanda Rafnu)

Batam. The Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) on Friday demanded for accountability from the officers responsible for firing tear gas munitions at a school on an island near Batam. This request comes in the wake of reports that several children were injured during the incident that occurred the day before.

Riot police were dispatched to Rempang Island in the province of Riau Islands on Thursday to manage a situation where residents were attempting to obstruct the work of local authorities conducting land measurement and boundary marking for the development of Rempang Eco City.

As the rally escalated into violence, police resorted to using tear gas to control the crowd. Some of the tear gas canisters landed at an elementary school in close proximity.

"The officers who deviated from established procedures in the line of duty must be held accountable under the law. This incident, in our view, constitutes violence against children," KPAI Commissioner Aris Adi Leksono said in Jakarta.


"Children were in class when this occurred, and videos have shown children running in fear. We are concerned that this incident may leave a lasting traumatic memory for them."

Reports indicate that some children experienced excessive tearing in their eyes when the tear gas infiltrated their classrooms. The police have detained at least eight demonstrators following the riot.

National Police Chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo, speaking separately, blamed the riot on residents who opposed the relocation efforts. He claimed that local authorities had previously engaged in negotiations and reached financial settlements with affected residents at the site.

"Negotiations and constructive dialogue remain our priority to comprehensively resolve the issue on Rempang Island," he said.

Thousands of protesters had blocked the main road spanning approximately 25 kilometers across the island to hinder the land survey team and accompanying security personnel. They used trees and burning tires as makeshift barricades.

Local police officer Chief Comr. Nugroho Tri Nuryanto acknowledged that several students were inadvertently injured by tear gas due to the school's close proximity to the riot.

"We apologize for the incident. Our personnel swiftly responded to evacuate the victims," Nugroho said.

Riau Islands Police Chief Insp. Gen. Tabana Bangun confirmed that order and security have been restored and issued an apology for the disruption to public activities.

"Barricades were set up along the road, so we had to clear the way first to carry out our duties. Now, with the barricades removed, we hope public activities can return to normal," he said.

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