Clashes erupt on third day of protests against new Indonesian jobs law

Protesters throwing stones at anti-riot police officers during a demonstration against the Omnibus law in Jakarta on Oct 8, 2020.
Protesters throwing stones at anti-riot police officers during a demonstration against the Omnibus law in Jakarta on Oct 8, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Smoke rising from a fire at a bus station during clashes in Jakarta on Oct 8, 2020.
Smoke rising from a fire at a bus station during clashes in Jakarta on Oct 8, 2020.PHOTO: AFP
Policemen firing tear gas at protesters during a demonstration in Medan, North Sumatra, on Oct 8, 2020.
Policemen firing tear gas at protesters during a demonstration in Medan, North Sumatra, on Oct 8, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Policemen firing tear gas at protesters during a demonstration in Medan, North Sumatra, on Oct 8, 2020.
Policemen firing tear gas at protesters during a demonstration in Medan, North Sumatra, on Oct 8, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
An activist attacking police officers during clashes in Jakarta on Oct 8, 2020.
An activist attacking police officers during clashes in Jakarta on Oct 8, 2020.PHOTO: AFP
Demonstrators standing next to a burning police station in Jakarta, on Oct 8, 2020.
Demonstrators standing next to a burning police station in Jakarta, on Oct 8, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Police and demonstrators clashed in the Indonesian capital on Thursday (Oct 8) on the third day of protests and labour strikes against a polarising new jobs law passed in South-east Asia’s largest economy earlier this week.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered near the presidential palace in central Jakarta, shouting and throwing stones. Police fired tear gas and water cannon in an attempt to disperse the crowd, Reuters witnesses said.

The “omnibus” jobs creation Bill, passed into law on Monday, has seen thousands of people across the world’s fourth-most populous nation take to the streets in protest against legislation they say undermine labour rights and weakens environmental protections.

“We ask that the law be repealed immediately,” Mr Maulana Syarif, 45, who has worked at Astra Honda motors for 25 years, told Reuters in Jakarta.

“This is our struggle for our children and grandchildren, and our future generations... If it’s like this our well-being will decrease, and we will lack job certainty.”

In the past two days, 800 people have been detained in the capital, Jakarta police spokesman Yusri Yunus told Reuters.

At least two students that joined the demonstrations have been hospitalised with head injuries, and six police officers injured.

“I feel a responsibility to the Indonesian people,” said another demonstrator, IT student Arawinda Kartika, as she marched toward the palace.

“I feel sorry for labourers working day and night without sufficient wages or power.”

On Thursday, protests occurred in almost a dozen cities across the country. Television channels showed demonstrations, including in remote areas such as North Maluku, where people carried coffins and held mock funerals to mark the “death” of Parliament.

Black smoke rose across the capital on Thursday afternoon as protesters burned public transport facilities and damaged police posts, and low-level clashes between police and demonstrators continued.

The operator of Jakarta’s MRT rail network said underground stations had been closed.


Protesters burning an MRT station in Jakarta on Oct 8, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The government of President Joko Widodo has championed the flagship legislation as key to boosting Indonesia’s ailing economy by streamlining regulations, cutting red tape and attracting more foreign direct investment.

Mr Bahlil Lahadalia, the head of Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board, appealed to young people to trust the government’s intent for the law, which is to create jobs.

“Please be assured this law is to create jobs for the unemployed Indonesian people,” he said.