Rallies against Indonesian labour law turn violent as police, protesters clash

Indonesian students fall in a clash between protestors and the police during a demonstration against the new Job Creation Law in the Jababeka industrial zone in Cikarang, Bekasi regency, West Java, on Wednesday. Image: Fakhri Hermansyah/Antara

By Arya Dipa and Agustinus Hari in Bandung/Manado

Protests over the past few days against Indonesia’s recently passed Job Creation Law have turned violent with clashes between protesters and the police in several regions.

When police attempted to disperse a demonstration on Monday held by hundreds of university students in an industrial area in Cikarang, West Java, the students, mostly from nearby Pelita Bangsa University purportedly struck back using stones and bamboo sticks, tribunnews.com reported.

Cikarang Police chief Adjutant Commissioner Sukadi said the police had not granted permission for any mass rallies because of the ongoing covid-19 outbreak. “But they opted to carry on with the protest, thus [the clash happened]”.

Similar scenes also occurred in Bandung, West Java, on Tuesday where hundreds of people staged a protest in front of the West Java Legislative Council (DPRD) office.

Chaos broke out as protesters managed to knock down the office’s front gate and throw stones at the police, who responded with water cannon and tear gas.

Thousands of workers and students across the country have decided to carry on with the protests against the contentious law, despite many arrests.

Scores of protesters from Samarinda and Kutai Kertanegara in East Kalimantan blocked Samarinda’s main thoroughfare, the Lembuswana intersection, on Wednesday, forcing authorities to divert traffic.

Protesters from eight universities
Rally participants, comprising workers and students from at least eight universities in the two cities, called on the government to revoke and reevaluate the law.

A similar mass demonstration was held in Pasar Rebo, East Jakarta. Hundreds of students took to the street to burn tires and wave banners expressing opposition to the law.

The protests were a part of a three-day national strike against the Job Creation Law, which started on Tuesday.

At least nine people were arrested during Tuesday’s protest in Bandung for allegedly attacking police personnel.

“We’ve arrested nine people, in total, from yesterday’s incident. They are all students,” West Java Police spokesperson Senior Commander Erdi A. Chaniago told kompas.com on Wednesday.

Fourteen people have also been detained by the Banten police following a similar protest on Tuesday.

“They threw stones at our personnel when asked to bring the rally to an end,” Banten police chief Inspector General Fiandar said.

17 students arrested at Manado
Seventeen Manado State University students were also arrested in Manado, North Sulawesi, on Wednesday, while staging a protest against the Job Creation Law on campus grounds.

From The Jakarta Post’s observations, a clash broke out when the Minahasa police barred students from leaving their campus. The police then appeared to take several of the students into custody.

Minahasa Police chief Adjutant Senior Commander Denny Situmorang, however, claimed that no such clash occurred and that the students were not actually arrested.

“The 17 students were not arrested, it’s just part of Operation Yustisi,” Denny said, referring to an ongoing joint National Police-Indonesian Military (TNI) operation aimed at monitoring and disciplining the public in relation to health protocols. “They have all been let go.”

The House of Representatives and the government passed the contentious omnibus bill on job creation into law on Monday, sooner that its original plan to pass the bill on Thursday.

Despite mounting opposition over fears that it will negatively impact the environment and labor rights, the government has insisted that the law is necessary to improve bureaucratic efficiency and to boost business and investment.

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