Friday, May 31, 2002

Black May 1998: 4th Commemoration (12 of 17)

Chinese-Indonesians still fearful of more rioting
By Damar Harsanto, Jakarta
The Jakarta Post (May 16, 2002)

High, strong fences were erected surrounding some malls and shopping centers here in the wake of the May 1998 riots, yet they fail to ensure business safety, at least for most shop owners who are still traumatized by the bloody incidents four years ago.

Patty, 45, an owner of a cosmetics shop at Mal Ciputra in Grogol, West Jakarta, said she still felt unsafe and worried that similar riots might recur though the mall management had constructed strong, three-meter high fences.

"The strong fence will only hamper the rioters from trespassing but not totally block their way," said Patty, whose shop at Glodok Plaza in Kota, West Jakarta was demolished during the May riots.

She worried that imminent riots were still possible amid the country's unstable political and economic situation.

The most important thing, Patty said, was not the construction of the fences but the improvement of the country's political and economic situation.

After she lost her shop during the May riots, Patty now has an insurance policy on her shop, but she still feels unsafe and admits that the insurance company would only minimally reimburse any losses.

Leo, 40, the owner of a shop at Gajah Mada Plaza in West Jakarta admitted that the fence at least gave a bit of a feeling of safety though "it is like being imprisoned."

"The mall is located near to Chinatown, which is consistently exposed and can easily become a riot zone again," Leo said.

He said there was a lingering anti-Chinese sentiment, among most native Indonesians, as evidenced by the May riots, the looting and burning of shops and houses, mostly belonging to Chinese-Indonesians and the gang rape of many Chinese-Indonesian women.

Leo used to have two textile outlets, respectively at Gajah Mada Plaza and Glodok shopping center. But the latter was destroyed during the 1998 riots.

"Today, for business safety, all my goods have been insured for any unexpected incidents, including riots," Leo said.

The May riots incurred losses of more than Rp 2.5 trillion (US$268 million). Thousands of buildings were destroyed during the violence, which also claimed 2,244 lives, according to the latest data from the Volunteers' Team for Humanity.

After the riots, some malls and shopping centers in Jakarta, including Mal Ciputra and ITC Roxy Mas in Central Jakarta have constructed strong, high steel fences.

Saidi, spokesman of the security department at Mal Ciputra acknowledged that the 2.5-meter high fences would be effective only as a temporary block for rioters, hopefully long enough for help from the police to arrive.

Meanwhile, Xiung xiung, owner of a cellular phone shop in ITC Roxy Mas said that security still topped the shop owners' concerns.

"Certainly, we still worry of possible riots in Jakarta because nobody, including the government, can guarantee order and safety in the city," said Xiung.

Xiung recalled the latest clash in January this year when hundreds of residents of Duri Pulo subdistrict in Central Jakarta ran amok following the violent eviction of alleged illegal squatters. In the incident, a car and three motorcycles were set ablaze but no fatalities were reported.

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