Embassies pressed to remove barriers - Tuesday 12th of July 2005

The city administration has reiterated its calls for the American and Australian embassies to remove protective barriers erected outside their premises that are blocking traffic in South and Central Jakarta.

City secretary Ritola Tasmaya said that there was no reason why the barriers had to stay on Jl. Rasuna Said and Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan. Jakarta Police had advised the embassies that clearing the barriers would not affect security there.

"There is no need to exaggerate (the danger). Besides causing severe traffic jams, the presence of the roadblocks and barbed wire in the middle of the streets tarnishes the image of the city as it suggests that we are in a permanent state of emergency," Ritola said at City Hall.

Jakartans already suffered enough problems commuting in the city and these extra barriers would only make people resent the presence of the embassies, he said.

Ritola said that the two embassies had earlier promised to remove the blocks within specific time frames, something that embassy officials are disputing.

"The U.S. Embassy had promised three weeks ago to remove the barrier within a week and now they are two weeks overdue," he said.

The Australian Embassy, meanwhile, had promised remove the barriers after it finalized the construction of a bomb-proof wall in May, Ritola said.

However, both embassies denied they had made such promises.

"We have only ever been able to give an estimate when the road would be ready to be opened. This has always depended on an estimate of when the substantial construction and repair work of the embassy would be finished ... In our discussions and ongoing consultations with the Jakarta government, we have advised them that we expect that the road will open in the next couple of months," Australian Embassy spokeswoman Elizabeth ONeill told The Jakarta Post.

ONeill said the embassy would not open the lane until it could guarantee the right level of security for all Indonesian and Australian staff working there despite the polices high standard of protection.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Max Kwak also denied the embassy had made any time-specific promises to the administration.

"We have told the government that we were looking forward to moving the barrier and reopening the lane to traffic at the earliest opportunity after we and the government have made suitable arrangements for security at the embassy," he said.

The city administration has sent a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help press for the removal of the roadblocks at the embassies.

Spokesman Yuri Oktavia Thamrin confirmed the ministry had received the letter and was following it up

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