Tue, Oct 28, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Two people killed in election-linked violence on Bali

REUTERS , JAKARTA

At least two people were killed and four were injured on Bali in fighting between supporters of Indonesia's ruling party and the second political group, officials said yesterday.

Indonesia holds parliamentary and presidential elections next year and many fear violence may mar the polls, in which about 145 million people will directly choose the country's president for the first time.

Police said the fighting was between supporters of President Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party Struggle (PDI-P) and the former ruling Golkar party.

"Two brothers died and four others suffered burns in the incident. All of them were Golkar cadres. The attackers were a group of people wearing the attributes of PDI-P," Bali police spokeswoman Pengasihan Gaut said by telephone from Denpasar.

The two parties are partners in the government coalition but are set to field separate candidates in next year's presidential election.

The PDI-P holds one third of the seats in parliament while Golkar is a close second. Both are secular parties. Most other leading parties in Indonesia are Islam-based.

Megawati, who is not known for immediate public comment on incidents, did not mention the violence when she launched a promotion for next year's elections yesterday, billing them as democratic events for all and a chance to improve the country's image.

Her chief security minister called for calm and urged political parties to exercise discipline.

"On behalf of the government, I am very saddened and express regret over the incidents in Buleleng, Bali. I ask all sides to exercise restraint," Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told reporters at the presidential palace.

"Before entering the campaigning period, all parties must ensure their public activities are held in an ordered and disciplined manner and political parties' security guards must not act like paramilitaries," he said.

The police spokeswoman in Bali said the situation in the northern Buleleng regency had calmed down after the violence in which a mob torched cars, motorcycles and Golkar booths.

"The motive probably was vengeance due to differences between the parties. Three people are being questioned and they have admitted their roles in the attacks," Gaut said.

Golkar was sure the attackers were PDI-P members.

"We know that the attackers came from PDI-P. I was there in Bali," Golkar deputy chairman Fahmi Idris said.

A senior PDI-P member said the violence was spontaneous.

"The incident stemmed from exchanges of insults between grassroots party cadres heating up the emotional situation there. It was not planned at all," PDI-P secretary general Sutjipto, in Bali at the time, told Radio Elshinta.

Indonesia's parliamentary polls are on April 5 to be followed by a presidential election on July 5. If no presidential candidate gets more than half the votes in the first round, a second round will be held on Sept. 20.

Violence has troubled past Indonesian elections, with big party gatherings easily turning into unrest.

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