JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – Protests over the government’s controversial new Omnibus Jobs Creation Law on Thursday, October 8 have taken a violent turn, as thousands of demonstrators clashed with police and destroyed government installations and public infrastructure.
University students and labor groups intermittently fought police in Central Jakarta’s Harmoni district. The conflict intensified as police sealed off streets leading to the Presidential Palace, which was one of the rioters’ destinations.
Tensions simmered down as the demonstrators negotiated with Central Jakarta Police precinct head Chief Commssioner Heru Novianto, then erupted again when he refused to accede to their request to protest in front of the Palace.
Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters, which split in different directions. One group burned a police post as they were pushed back towards the Hotel Indonesia roundabout, before they turned their rage on the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.
Police remained on standby well into the night to seal off routes heading to the Presidential Palace and the Parliament Complex, the two locations targeted by protesters.
Riots over the controversial law also erupted in other Indonesian cities like Bandung, West Java, and Makassar, South Sulawesi.
President Joko Widodo’s coalition — Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle [PDI-P], Golkar and other parties — passed the jobs bill into law on Monday, October 5.
The government ratified the legislation despite opposition from the Democrat and Social Justice (PKS) parties in parliament, trade unions, and civil society groups.
The law is controversial, as some of its clauses allegedly increased the workday from five to six days and reduced the amount of severance pay.
Yet its initiators, such as Coordinating Miister of Economic Affairs Airlangga Hertanto, maintained that the law can stimulate investment by streamlining procedures, among them cutting through more red tape and reducing the number of days to obtain business permits,.
(Writers: Rosiana Haryanti, Sonya Teresa Debora | Editors: Sabrina Asril, Jessi Carina)