JAKARTA: The Indonesian government has set up an independent team to investigate the deadly crush at a football stadium that killed at least 125 people over the weekend, the country’s chief security minister said on Monday.
The stampede in Malang, East Java, on Saturday occurred after frustrated fans from the losing home team, Arema football club, ran onto the pitch at the end of the match. Authorities said anarchy ensued, prompting officers to fire tear gas in an attempt to control the crowd.
Footage circulated on social media showed scuffling between football fans and officers in riot gear, while others rushed toward an exit gate and scaled a fence to flee the clouds of tear gas.
Indonesia’s chief security minister, Mahfud MD, announced on Monday the formation of a 13-member independent fact-finding team to probe the disaster.
“The team will work within two weeks to one month at the latest, and the result of the team’s investigation and its recommendations will be handed over to the president,” Mahfud told a news conference.
Mahfud will lead the team that also includes Sports Minister Zainudin Amali, journalist Anton Sanjoyo from news daily Kompas, sports expert Akmal Marhali, and former commissioner of the Indonesia Anti-Corruption Commission Laode M. Syarif.
President Joko Widodo also instructed the Indonesian police and army to launch an internal probe into their officers’ conduct in Malang, Mahfud added, with legal actions expected against those who had “acted excessively and beyond their authority.”
The Football Association of Indonesia has suspended all games in the Indonesian top league BRI Liga 1 until the investigation has been completed.
Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights, known as Komnas HAM, has also launched its own probe into the tragedy.
“To look into whatever happened in Kanjuruhan, including the use of tear gas, that’s our agenda in Malang,” Komnas HAM commissioner, Choirul Anam, told a press briefing. “This incident must not happen again.”
The Indonesian stadium disaster was one of the worst in the history of football and the deadliest in more than half a century. In 1964, 328 people were left dead after violence broke out at the Estadio Nacional in Lima, Peru.
More than 30 children, whose ages range from three to 17, were among the 125 Indonesian victims, according to a Reuters report quoting an official at the women’s empowerment and child protection ministry.
Arema FC president, Gilang Widya Pramana, apologized to the victims of the stampede on Monday, and said he was ready to take “full responsibility” for the disaster. “Lives are more precious than soccer,” he said at a news conference.
Mohamad Kusnaeni, an Indonesian sports expert, said the tragedy should serve as a uniting moment for the country’s football community.
“We should unite to improve all our shortcomings in organizing the national football competition,” he told Arab News.
Saturday’s incident cast a spotlight on Indonesia’s troubled football history, which in the past had involved violent rivalries. Previous incidents, however, have not been anywhere near as deadly. And with no visiting fans allowed in the stadium on the weekend, many Indonesians are questioning the security approach that day.
The world’s governing body of football, FIFA, has asked Indonesian football authorities for a report on the incident. According to its safety regulations, firearms or “crowd control gas” should not be used at matches.
With Indonesia set to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup next year, Kusnaeni said the issue of tear gas use must be “seriously anticipated.”
“When it comes to the use of tear gas, it is regrettable that it occurred at a sports competition. Especially when it is strictly prohibited for football games,” he added.