Protests turn violent as Indonesians oppose new labor law

Protests turn violent as Indonesians oppose new labor law
Workers and students rallied across the country for the third consecutive day. (AFP)
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Updated 08 October 2020

Protests turn violent as Indonesians oppose new labor law

Protests turn violent as Indonesians oppose new labor law
  • Violence erupted in several provinces, especially in Jakarta during a rally near the presidential palace, where police fired tear gas, injuring dozens
  • Officials argue the law will encourage investment and help Indonesia anticipate changes brought by the automation of traditional industrial practices

JAKARTA: Protests in Indonesia turned violent on Thursday as workers and students rallied across the country for the third consecutive day against a controversial law that they say will erode workers’ protections, trigger job insecurity and destroy the environment. Hundreds of people have been arrested across the country.

The Omnibus Law on Job Creation Law was ratified by the Indonesian parliament during an unscheduled plenary session on Monday despite criticisms raised by workers, human rights activists and environmentalists.

The law was enacted to overhaul Indonesia’s labor regulations to attract more investors, which President Joko Widodo promised to do during his final term in office.

“We condemn the arrests which reflect the anti-democratic and repressive nature of the law enforcers,” Indonesia Labor Movement Center (SGBI) chairman Muhammad Yahya told Arab News on Thursday.

Violence erupted in several provinces, and in Jakarta police fired tear gas during a rally near the Presidential Palace, injuring dozens.

Yahya said about 50,000 workers and students joined Jakarta protests.

Thousands of factory workers in Indonesia’s main industrial zones in the country's most populous island of Java have held strikes since Thursday morning to protest against the law, causing disruptions to production.

Protesters have not been convinced by arguments put forward by officials who in a joint online press conference on Wednesday evening defended the passage of the law, arguing that it would encourage more investment and introduce more flexibility to anticipate changes brought by the automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices.

Investment Coordinating Agency (BKPM) chief Bahlil Lahadalia said 153 foreign companies have lined up to start doing business in Indonesia following the adoption of the law. “(Operations of) the 153 companies will create jobs,” he said, adding that 13 million Indonesians are currently looking for a job, including 6 million who have recently been laid off in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

He said the law will help Indonesia achieve its target of $55.6 billion in realized investment this year. In July, BKPM reported that $27.4 billion of the annual target had already been reached.

Experts, however, are not convinced.

Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef) economist Bhima Yudhistira Adhinegara said that it is unlikely that the new omnibus law will boost domestic and foreign investment this year and next.

“The more pressing problems that must be solved to recover investment level and attract foreign investors are the handling of COVID-19, weak household consumption, eradication of corruption, declining environmental quality and the cost of logistics. These issues were not addressed in the deliberation of the omnibus law,” Adhinegara said.

Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

Updated 04 December 2020

Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

COTABATO, Philippines: Dozens of militants aligned with the Daesh group opened fire on a Philippine army detachment and burned a police patrol car in a southern town but withdrew after troops returned fire, officials said Friday.
There were no immediate reports of injuries in Thursday night’s brief attack by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Piang town. Nevertheless it sparked panic among residents and rekindled fears of a repeat of a 2017 militant siege of southern Marawi city that lasted for five months before being quelled by government forces.
“We are on top of the situation. This is just an isolated case,” regional military commander Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. said in a statement.
Security officials gave differing statements on the motive of the 30 to 50 gunmen. Some said the militants targeted Datu Piang’s police chief over a feud but others speculated that the militants wanted to project that they are still a force to reckon with by attacking the army detachment in the center of the predominantly Muslim town.
Officials denied earlier reports that the militants managed to seize a police station and burn a Roman Catholic church.
When reinforcement troops in armored carriers arrived and opened fire, the militants fled toward a marshland, military officials said.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is one of a few small armed groups waging a separatist rural insurrection in the south of the largely Roman Catholic nation. The groups opposed a 2014 autonomy deal forged by the largest Muslim rebel group in the south with the Philippine government and have continued on and off attacks despite being weakened by battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism.
The armed groups include the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization for kidnappings for ransom, beheadings and bombings.