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5th Day of Indonesian Protests Over Price Hikes - 2003-01-10

In Indonesia, thousands of people have demonstrated for the fifth day against price hikes for fuel and utilities. The protesters say they will continue their demonstrations until the president resigns.

An estimated 10,000 protesters rallied Friday in the southern Sulawesi capital of Makassar, 1,400 kilometers east of Jakarta, while smaller crowds protested in the Indonesian capital and several other major cities.

The demonstrators were protesting increases of up to 22 percent in fuel prices, and telephone and electricity rates.

The price hikes are aimed at reducing the government's budget deficit by cutting subsidies on basic goods and services. They are part of austerity measures negotiated with the International Monetary Fund for a five- billion dollar economic recovery package.

The government says it will provide $600 million worth of tax cuts and distribute a $500 million worth of rice at below market prices, to ease the burden of the price increases on the general public. But the demonstrators vow they will continue their protests until the increases are rolled back and President Megawati Sukarnoputri resigns.

The demonstrations, which began five days ago, have been noisy but mostly peaceful. However, they turned violent on Thursday when police in Jakarta clashed with rock throwing protesters and security forces in West Java fired shots into a crowd, injuring two people.

Supporters of the Indonesian president also held a demonstration Friday in support of the price hikes.