THOUSANDS of students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia in opposition to a new law they say will cripple labour rights and harm the environment.
The Job Creation Law approved by Parliament on Monday is expected to substantially change the labour system and natural resources management.
It amended 79 previous laws and intends to improve bureaucratic efficiency in an effort by president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration to attract more investment.
The demonstrators say the law will hurt workers by reducing severance pay, removing limits on manual labour by foreign workers, raise the use of outsourcing and shifting monthly wages to hourly.
Police in Jakarta, stopped labour groups from holding a rally in front of Parliament and have held at least 200 high school students who tried to reach the parliament compound for protests, Jakarta police said Yusri Yunus said yesterday.
“They have been provoked by invitation on social media to create a riot in Jakarta, ” Yunus said.
But thousands of varsity students and workers committed to take part in rallies in front of the Parliament building and the presidential palace yesterday, leading authorities to block streets leading to both compounds in downtown Jakarta.
Similar rallies were also held in Bandung, the capital of West Java, where clashes between rock-throwing students and riot police broke out since Tuesday when police tried to disperse the protesters by firing tear gas and water cannons.
Protests also occurred in other cities yesterday, including in Yogyakarta, Medan, Palembang and Makassar.
Indonesia, South-East Asia’s largest economy, eagerly courts foreign investors as key drivers of growth where nearly half the population of 270 million is younger than 30.
The presidential secretariat has denied claims that Jokowi’s working visit to Central Kalimantan yesterday was an effort to avoid protests against the Job Creation Law.
Bey Machmudin, the secretariat’s deputy for protocol, press and the media, said Jokowi’s trip to Kalimantan was planned for a long time.
“The presidential agenda for the food estate has been scheduled in advance, so it has absolutely nothing to do with the demonstrations, ” Bey told reporters on Wednesday, as quoted by tempo.co.
“The president is indeed concerned about national food security because as the FAO (UN Food and Agriculture Organisation) has warned, there is a risk of food scarcity because of the pandemic.
In Kalimantan, Jokowi addressed only issues of food security and said nothing about the protests.
Netizens responded to Jokowi’s working visit with the Twitter hashtag #JokowiKabur (Jokowi Runs Away), which trended on the platform. — AP/The Jakarta Post/ANN