A newspaper office and several government buildings in Palopo City, South Sulawesi, were set ablaze by a mob on Sunday in one of the worst incidents of election-related violence in recent years, after supporters of the losing camp were upset over a marginal win by another candidate.
The violence comes just four days after a police chief in North Sumatra was killed by a mob after he and three officers raided a gambling den. That same day, a senior policeman was stabbed to death at a coffee stall in Banda Aceh over a land dispute.
The incidents come amid a spate of violence against the authorities across the country, prompting Indonesian media to issue dire warnings of a slide into lawlessness if nothing serious is done to arrest the problem.
Some share the concern of former vice-president Jusuf Kalla, who said he feared that the "law of the jungle" will increase if no firm action is taken.
Yesterday, an upset President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for a Cabinet meeting to discuss the incidents and chided local governments for not taking preventive measures, especially in the aftermath of local elections.
"If you know such things could happen, the local police, governors and leaders should find a way to anticipate and prevent them," he said.
Dr Yudhoyono said he has instructed police and the army to investigate and punish those responsible.
But there have also been incidents where leaders themselves have resorted to thuggish behaviour. A mayor in Gorontalo, North Sulawesi, led a mob attack on state-owned television broadcaster TVRI after it aired an interview with a local elections officer saying that the mayor was not fit to run in an upcoming election.
With more regional elections expected across several of the country's 33 provinces this year, incidents such as the one that happened in South Sulawesi could recur, warned Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi.
Speaking to reporters, he said his ministry and parliamentarians are jointly evaluating the system of regional elections. Since 2005, there have been more than 50 casualties from protests against local election results.
"Based on consultations with analysts and politicians which are ongoing, we are considering changing the way some of these mayors and governors are elected - perhaps be elected by the House or representatives," he added.
Regional elections have been rife with vote-rigging and corruption, and lately have seen a dwindling number of voters as they choose to abstain, indicating a rising apathy towards the government.
Al Araf, an analyst and programme director at human rights and national security watchdog Imparsial, said the targeting of police merely represents the anger towards the government and a deep loss of confidence in them.
"Police are standing by when minorities like Ahmadiyah are being attacked or when land disputes occur, so people are fed up and take matters into their own hands," he said.
"So they see police as the face of the government... a government that in their eyes has failed to (improve) their welfare and care more about enriching themselves," he said.
The Straits Times
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