JAKARTA, Indonesia -- With the wave of protests against the Indonesian government's plan to raise fuel prices expected to grow in the capital, some residents have decided to leave their vehicles at home to avoid getting stuck in tortuous traffic jams or violent street riots.
On Tuesday, Jakarta's main thoroughfares were unusually empty, despite earlier news reports that said protesters planned to stage a major rally in the city on the day.
Andrea Hotasi, who lives in Blok M in South Jakarta, said she had chosen to take the bus to her o ffice in Slipi, West Jakarta.
"I left my car at home because I heard that there would be massive rallies across the capital today. I don't want to get stuck in the heavy traffic and be late for work," she said, adding that she also went to the office an hour earlier.
She said it was unlikely that she would drive in the next few days as it had been reported that protesters would be persistent in their struggle to oppose the fuel-price hike.
"Today's rallies probably had no significant impact on the traffic, but we don't know if things will get worse tomorrow," Andrea said.
Aulia Arman, who lives in Tangerang, decided to take the train to office in Salemba, Central Jakarta, to avoid massive congestion. "Taking public transportation when demonstrations occur is safer than using one's own vehicle," she said.
"The protesters promised to hold peaceful rallies, but things can change anytime. Who can guarantee that things will not turn ugly. I don't want to take the risk," she added.
The looming threat of violent protests on the streets of Jakarta has alarmed companies, too.
Yania Andarini, who works for a public relations agency, said her office had warned the staffers to take the rallies into account when arranging meetings with clients outside the office.
Many Jakartans received messages on their mobile phones saying that Tuesday's rallies would turn violent. The rallies, however, did not draw as many protesters as feared.
The Jakarta Police deployed 22,000 personnel -- including members of the TNI -- to secure the capital during the anti-fuel price-hike protests. The protesters have said that they will stage bigger mass rallies on Thursday when the House members are scheduled to determine the new fuel prices.
They said the rallies would be concentrated in front of the House of Representatives' building complex on Jl. Gatot Subroto, South Jakarta, adding that they would take over the building should the House members agree with the price increase.
Jakarta is notorious for its horrendous traffic and a giant wave of protests on the city's roads is the last thing motorists need.
So far this year, Jakartans have had to bear two major protests that have exacerbated the city's traffic woes.
In January, thousands of demonstrators held protests at several locations across Jakarta, demanding the government cease all forms of land expropriation across the country.
Also in January, tens of thousands of workers staged a rally in Bekasi, blocking toll road access gates, in protest of a ruling issued by the Bandung State Administrative Court (PTUN) that approved the Bekasi chapter of the Indonesian Employers Association's (Apindo) lawsuit aimed at revoking the 2012 minimum wage increase.
The action caused a massive jam at the MM2100 tollgate in Bekasi involving thousands of trucks and cars.
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