Riot police used tear-gas and water cannons in Indonesia’s capital on Oct. 8 to disperse large protests against a sweeping new law that rolls back protections for workers and the environment. Hundreds were arrested in Jakarta, and rallies took place in cities across the archipelago nation. The National Police have issued a notice to regional departments with directives on how to control the protests. The Omnibus Law, plugged as a “Job Creation” bill, was passed three days earlier, despite calls for a general strike by the country’s trade unions. It revises more than 70 laws and regulations in an effort to cut “red tape” and improve the investment climate. Most controversially, it abolishes the national minimum wage, reduces severance pay, and relaxes the criteria for environmental impact statements on development projects.
President Joko Widodo aggressively plugged the bill, saying: “We want to simplify the licensing and bureaucracy, we want speed, so a harmonization of law is needed to create speedy services, speedy policymaking, so that Indonesia would be faster to respond to every world change.” But Congress Alliance of Indonesian Labor Unions (KASBI) chair Nining Elitos said the legislative process itself had been too fast, with debate on the bill carried out in a “clandestine” manner. The bill was also opposed by the All-Indonesia United Workers Confederation (KPBI) and Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI). (NYT, NYT, BBC News, Jakarta Post, SCMP, The Star, Malaysia)
Image: Global May Day