Thousands of protesters set fire to police stations in Jakarta and several other cities in Indonesia on Thursday, during protests punctuated by violence against a new law that curbs workers’ rights.
Several tens of thousands of Indonesians demonstrated in the main cities of the archipelago of Southeast Asia and clashed with the police to protest against the new legislation, denounced by unions and environmental activists.
The police used tear gas in the capital and carried out more than a thousand arrests, said Yusri Yunus, spokesman for the police in Jakarta.
Among these arrested, who have all been tested for COVID-19, “34 have tested positive”, according to the official, specifying that they will be isolated and tested again.
Police had not authorized the protests, citing the risk of contamination by COVID-19.
Some 13,000 members of the security forces had been deployed in and around the capital to prevent the arrival of employees and students who wanted to demonstrate in front of the presidential palace and the Parliament.
Anger against parliament
But the young people crossed the roadblocks after clashes and converged on the center of the city. Failing to reach parliament, some destroyed government buildings, set fire to traffic police stations and bus stops, AFP journalists observed.
In several other towns, protesters directed their anger at local parliaments, such as Surabaya, Bandung and Makassar.
“We want the law to be overturned,” Muhammad Sidharta told AFP in Bandung, west of the island of Java. This legislation “hurts Indonesians and not just workers like me”.
Indonesia has a relatively protective labor code compared to other Asian countries, with minimum wages and penalties for dismissals.
The government hopes that the new law – called the omnibus law -, which aims to reduce bureaucracy by amending dozens of existing laws affecting the environment, taxation, labor law and environmental standards, will encourage foreign investment then. as the country is about to enter a recession.
Airlangga Hartarto, Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs, underlined by presenting the text voted on Monday that Indonesia “needed simplification, synchronization and reduce regulations”.
But workers’ unions and environmental groups denounced the law, which Amnesty International called “catastrophic” for workers.
They are protesting in particular against a reduction in compensation in the event of dismissal and a reduction in the obligations of companies on long-term contracts.
Indonesians have also widely expressed their anger online on social media. Hackers blocked the Parliament’s website and changed its name to the “Council of Traitors”.
Phelim Kine, head of the environmental protection organization Mighty Earth, said the new legislation would legitimize “unchecked deforestation”.