Indonesian Police and protesters clashed in Jakarta on the third day of the demonstrations against a “job creation” omnibus bill.
Nikkei Asia quoted a Jakarta police spokesperson as saying that as many as 8,000 people took part in the protests on Thursday, including workers, students and staff in non-governmental organisations. However, the protest later turned violent after some protesters in central Jakarta set bus stations and roadside plastic barricades on fire.
According to footage of the protest, the police had fired tear gas at the protesters gathered outside the presidential palace and the demonstrators threw rocks at the police in retaliation.
The protests also took place in several other cities across the country including Makassar in South Sulawesi, Bandung in West Java and Semarang in Central Java.
Nikkei Asia reported that the omnibus bill, passed ahead of schedule in parliament on Monday, makes sweeping changes to more than 70 laws in key sectors such as labour and tax.
“Broadly, we think that the reform package — if implemented well — could move Indonesia toward a new regime of reduced policy uncertainties…This is because many clauses have endowed the central government with the authority to issue regulations in case deadlocks occur at the regional level,” Helmi Arman, an economist at Citi Indonesia, was quoted as saying.
However, the critics of the bill believe that it will damage workers’ rights, weaken environmental protections, and was passed without adequate consultation with affected parties, Nikkei Asia reported.
Earlier this week, a group of 36 international investors including the UK’s Aviva Investors and Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management issued an open letter to Indonesian authorities saying they “are concerned by certain modifications which could be potentially detrimental from an environment, social, and governance perspective if implemented.”
Nikkei Asia further quoted a spokesperson for the Factory Workers Federation, one of the labour organisations that took part in Thursday’s protests, as saying in a virtual press conference that “[workers need to] continue to take action until the Omnibus Law is cancelled.”
The controversial points in the bill include giving the central government more power over green issues such as the conducting of environmental impact analysis, and the removal of a clause that stipulated at least 30 per cent of forest area must be maintained for watersheds and islands, the Nikkei Asia reported.
The government has withdrawn some points from the bill’s draft such as in the articles on severance packages.
According to the draft, employers “can provide” compensation money for matters such as unfulfilled paid leave — a payment that was mandated in the original 2003 law. On Monday, the bill was reverted to its original wordings mandating the employers to pay for “rights that should have been received.”
However, there remains confusion in whether the bill passed on Monday was final.