JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo ordered an audit of all stadiums across the country as he visited on Wednesday the venue where a stampede killed at least 131 people over the weekend.
Hundreds of people were crushed at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East Java on Saturday night, in what was one of the world’s worst football disasters.
Panic at the stadium broke out after security forces fired tear gas to control the crowd. As thousands of spectators rushed in panic to the stadium’s exits, they trampled one another.
“All the stadiums will be audited by the Ministry of Public Works,” Widodo told reporters as he visited the stadium, where banners were displayed with calls for justice.
“I think we need a thorough evaluation of everything, whether it’s management of the competition, stadiums, spectators, time, security — it must be totally evaluated so that what happened in Kanjuruhan Stadium will never happen again.”
With Indonesia set to host the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 2023, Widodo said he has been in touch with Gianni Infantino, president of the world’s governing body of football, who had offered assistance to “improve existing management.”
The use of firearms and crowd control gas is banned under FIFA’s safety regulations, and the security approach in Kanjuruhan last weekend has triggered questions and anger across the football-loving nation of 270 million people. Police have said the gates at the stadium were too small and could only accommodate two at a time when hundreds had been trying to escape that night.
The death toll had risen to 131 as of Tuesday, among them 33 minors, authorities said.
The condition of the bodies indicated that the victims had died due to asphyxiation and because of tear gas, said the National Commission on Human Rights, or Komans HAM, which is investigating the incident.
The deadly incident had unfolded after Malang’s football team, Arema F.C., lost 2-3 to Persebaya Surabaya, a club it had defeated for 23 years running. Among tens of thousands of fans at Kanjuruhan Stadium, some had gone onto the pitch to talk with the players, Komnas HAM Commissioner Choirul Anam said in a video message on Wednesday.
“If there is information that said the supporters were attacking the players, the players themselves said it wasn’t like that, and so did the fans,” he added, referring to a narrative that the stadium chaos had been triggered by violent fans.
K. Sumaji, a 49-year-old Arema fan who was born and raised in Malang, said the security approach was “excessive.”
“They used batons, kicks, and even tear gas, when the fans only wanted to greet their idols, but security forces assumed that was dangerous,” Sumaji told Arab News.
“This has stained football in Malang,” he said. “It’s such a pity to see.”
Jefry Gigih Permana had been a fan of Arema for years, but after the incident in Kanjuruhan, he said he has lost all his passion for the football club.
“It’s the place where the lives of hundreds of friends ended,” Permana told Arab News, as he was among other Malang residents who had come to lay flowers to honor the victims.
“I can only hope that those who should take responsibility for the hundreds of lives lost will do so.”