By Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Willy Kurniawan
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Police and demonstrators clashed in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Thursday on the third day of protests and labour strikes against a polarising new jobs law passed in Southeast Asia’s largest economy earlier this week.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered near the presidential palace in central Jakarta, shouting and throwing stones. Police responded by firing 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 undermines labour rights and weakens environmental protections.
“We ask that the law be repealed immediately,” Maulana Syarif, 45, who has worked at Astra Honda motors for 25 years, told Reuters in Jakarta.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 (with the new law) our well-being will decrease, and we will lack job certainty.”
“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.”
In the past two days, almost 400 people have been detained in major cities, and two students hospitalised with serious head injuries, as protests have swept across the archipelago.
On Thursday, demonstrations were underway in almost a dozen cities across the country with television channels showing protests, including in remote areas such as North Maluku, where demonstrators carried coffins and held mock funerals for the ‘death’ of the parliament.
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.
Met with cautious optimism by some financial analysts, the bill has sparked a significant outcry, with labour unions, students and academics criticising it for a lack of consultation, expedited passage, and problematic clauses they argue will disadvantage workers and the environment.
(Additional Reporting by Tabita Diela; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)