Indonesia’s police chief says exit gates are too small to accommodate evacuees

Indonesia police: Stadium exit gates too small for escapees

KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 — Indonesia’s police chief said on Thursday that the exit gates for the nation’s presidential palace in Jakarta are too small to accommodate Indonesians seeking to flee unrest in and around neighbouring Aceh province.

Chief Suharto, a former general and ex-governor of Jakarta, made the statement during a press conference, which was aimed at deflecting criticism by Indonesians who have accused the government of not doing enough to quell the turmoil in Aceh province.

“The exit gates are not big enough to hold a group of persons all at the same time,” Suharto said as he attempted to defend President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration.

But a small group of people carrying banners were not able to get through the gates, he added.

President Yudhoyono has been under pressure to act after the disappearance of students, academics and health workers over the past two weeks in Aceh, which is governed by the separatist movement the People’s Representative Council or Gerindra.

The group, which includes students, teachers and doctors, and their families, has gone missing in a string of incidents, which authorities blame on an Islamist insurgency in Aceh, where the government has ruled without interruption since 1999.

The incident in Aceh over the past fortnight comes on the heels of a firefight between the security forces and a group of Islamic State fighters which left three senior militants dead.

Suharto said he had requested the president to send in the police to ensure that the exit gates were able to accommodate the evacuees.

“We are ready to do whatever is needed to ensure that there is no further loss [of life] from [the] security forces,” he said.

There was no immediate reaction from the president’s office, and it was unclear where the president was during the press conference — he had left the capital

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