Indonesian Muslim and union groups to fight new jobs law in court

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said he would inform President Joko Widodo of protesters' demand to repeal a new labour law.
Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said he would inform President Joko Widodo of protesters' demand to repeal a new labour law.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo came under increasing pressure to repeal his new controversial labour law on Friday (Oct 9) with union and Muslim groups preparing to challenge it in court and some regional leaders publicly opposing the legislation. 

The KSPI labour group, among the organisers of three-day national strikes ending Thursday, is preparing to lodge a case against the new law in the Constitutional Court, the group’s president Said Iqbal said in a statement. 

Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s biggest Muslim group with millions of followers, would also challenge the law in the court, it said in its official Twitter account. 

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, saying it undermines labour rights and weakens environmental protections. 

Clashes erupted in some cities on Thursday, including in the capital Jakarta where protesters burnt public transport facilities and damaged police posts. 

At least five regional leaders, including the governors of Jakarta and the country’s most populous province West Java, have said they would pass on protesters’ demand to the president or publicly opposed the law.

"Yesterday I also met with the protesters and we had a brief discussion with them, I'd told them that we had listened to your voices and I will convey the message," Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan told Reuters.

He did not go as far as saying he would join the call for the law to be repealed.

Repealing the law would prevent further clashes "that could create prolong instability amid a pandemic and an economic recession", West Kalimantan Governor Sutarmidji said in a statement.

The president has yet to make any public statement following Monday's passage of the jobs Bill into law, but his ministers have defended it, saying protests were triggered by false news and that the legislation would improve people's welfare by welcoming more investment.

Jakarta police on Thursday detained about 1,000 demonstrators, while hundreds were arrested in other cities.

Most of those detained were released by Friday morning, Jakarta police spokesman Yusri Yunus said.

Police did not expect a fourth day of protests in the capital on Friday, he said.

However, trade union KSBSI on Friday called on its members to launch another wave of protests from Oct 12 to 16. 

A meeting of many other labour groups is scheduled over the weekend to consolidate their next move, Mr Ilhamsyah of KPBI labour union told Reuters.  

Jakarta resident Nathan Tarigan feared clashes would escalate.

"I'm afraid if the government and stakeholders of the state aren't wise, don't want to listen, something bigger can happen and the state can break," the 50-year-old said.