There were few traces left of the violent brawls at Pasar Rumput market in South Jakarta on Friday. Instead, banners saying “we want to stop these clashes and we want peace” and “respect the coming of the holy month of Ramadan” hung along Jalan Sultan Agung, which for the last two weeks has seen a series of fights.
Although police and authorities were quick to say that the brawls were caused by social frictions and disputes over “trivial issues” such as football results, kite competitions and pigeon races, residents believe the clashes were drug-related.
“There is a third party whose aim is to use this situation to supply drugs to the Menteng Tenggulung community,” said one Pasar Rumput resident, who wished to remain anonymous.
“Over the years, the frequency of the clashes has intensified. There were three clashes in one month this year. Some people said the clashes occurred because there was a dispute over parking spaces. I doubt that.
“I strongly believe that there is a third party who wants to take advantage of this situation.
The area has long been associated with drug users but authorities have refused to acknowledge this.
Residents claim that teenagers often shoot up heroin beneath bridges in the neighborhood, particularly at night. They say the next day the ground is littered with needles.
One former drug addict in Pasar Rumput told the Jakarta Globe that there’s money to be made from the brawls.
“Drug prices only increase under two conditions: if there is a religious holiday or a riot,” the former addict said.
Jakino, the urban ward chief, declined to comment on the brawls when contacted by the Globe.
Three times this month, huge brawls involving scores of combatants armed with crude weapons and Molotov cocktails broke out near the busway shelter in Pasar Rumput. Police had to use tear gas to control the mobs.
Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Baharudin Djafar said there was little evidence to support the residents’ claims about drugs.
“I cannot give any comment on the allegation about drugs until the allegation is proven by arresting the drug dealers,” he said.
Police have recorded at least 35 brawls in Greater Jakarta this year. Twenty of those were in the city proper, and 15 in Bekasi. There were 74 brawls last year, a jump from 16 in 2009.
This month clashes appeared to have occurred simultaneously across the capital. Nine people were arrested on Wednesday.
Mohammad Irvan Olii, a criminologist from the University of Indonesia, said it was unlikely the clashes were being masterminded by drug dealers.
“I doubt that the clashes were created by drug dealers so they could raise their prices, unless the clashes occurred between two rival gangs. The possibility of that scenario is unlikely,” he said. “But, if the dealers are taking advantage of this situation, [price increases] might happen.”
Another Pasar Rumput resident said it appeared the brawls were planned and not spontaneous as police and experts claimed.
“It was Sunday morning,” the resident said. “There were a couple of guys who were in sports outfits walking by. We did not think they were suspicious until they suddenly threw some bottles at display windows. Suddenly a brawl occurred.
“We do not know who they were or why they did it.”