Protests in Indonesia

What about Indonesia? 

The Republic of Indonesia is the largest archipelagic country in the world, located in Southeast Asia and Oceania, between the Indian and Pacific oceans. With the population over 273 million people, it is the world’s 4th most populous country as well as the most-populous Muslim-majority country.

 

Economic side of Indonesia 

According to the latest HDI rankings, Indonesia is a country with medium human development. Among the countries which have similar levels of quality of life to that of Indonesia are Egypt, Vietnam, South Africa, and Bolivia.

The Indonesian government has attempted to improve quality of life in the country through participation in many international trade and business organizations. The government has been working to stabilize the inflation rates as well as increase the size of the job market. The Indonesia government is also committed to growing the country’s economy, improving health facilities, and raising the standard of education.

 

Controversial jobs law – background 

Protests in Indonesia have started on the 7th of October, 2020 in response to the new job law aimed at the attempt to attract investment and stimulate the economy. 

In an interview in January, President Joko Widodo told the BBC that the law is about removing red tape and opening the economy to more foreign investment. 

“We want to simplify the licensing and bureaucracy [process], we want speed, so a harmonisation of law is needed to create speedy services, speedy policymaking, so that Indonesia would be faster to respond to every world change,” he said.

According to the BBC news article “Indonesia: Thousands protest against ‘omnibus law’ on jobs”,

“In addition to removing red tape, the bill makes significant changes to Indonesia’s labour regulations. It abolishes the sectoral minimum wage, in favour of minimums set by regional governors. 

It will reduce severance pay to a maximum of 19 months salary, depending on how long the employee has had the job. Previously the maximum was 32 months pay. 

Allowable overtime will be increased to a maximum of four hours in one day and 18 hours a week. Businesses will only be required to give workers one day off a week instead of two. 

The law also relaxes environmental standards, only forcing businesses to file an environmental impact analysis if their projects are considered high risk.”

 

Immediate response 

A coalition of 15 activist groups, including trade unions, called on workers to join a planned national strike. The protesters have demanded the government revoke the bill and international unions and human rights groups have condemned it.

“Chaos on the streets of Jakarta. Thousands of students and workers stage rallies across the capital against the government’s flagship jobs law. Clashes erupted as police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds who gathered near the Parliament building. Some were throwing stones at the police … The new job law is aimed at cutting red tape and boosting investment into Indonesia. Protesters say the new law will cripple labor rights. For instance, by reducing severance pay and outsourcing more jobs to foreigners.”

  • According to the CNA news report on 08.10.2020

 

Covid-19 and Protests

One can easily find correlation between the Covid-19 pandemic and the new job law. 

On the one hand, the government says the changes are needed to help its economy, which has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, any type of protests are forbidden now due to the health crisis. 

On the other hand, citizens of Indonesia are strongly against implementing a new law, because of its harmful consequences and they cannot stay silent about it. 

 

A view on the problem from the inside: Interview with the citizen of Indonesia 

 

  • What is the law about?
  • It is a draft about the system/policy from the government, which is about control between the enterprise and the employee. For example, how much time you work, how to recruit, how and when to properly dismiss an employee, how to get paid etc. And actually the government wants that; it will make investors feel easier to invest in Indonesia, but some people think that this policy will bring harm to them. 

 

  • Do you support the new law? 

 

  • I think that I am neutral towards it. Because I do not know what really is better. 

 

  • Why do you think the protest has started? 

 

  • I think because people feel that policy will bring them more harm; and they will not get their human rights protected while working. 

 

  • Do you think that the new law and the response to it is related to Covid-19?

 

  • There are two perceptions on it. First, I think there is no urgency. Why does the government make the policy when we have another serious problem to be solved – which is Covid-19. Second, I think the government wants to develop/repair the economy, while the world is just focusing on Covid-19.

 

  • What is happening in Indonesia right now?

 

  • For me, everything is normal. There is no chaos at the moment. 

 

  • How did the government react to the protests? 
  • There is too much hoax information which is delivered in society. Government tries to neutralize these conditions. Give the truth information and make a clarification statement. Therefore, the society will know about the draft of the policy which will be made. 

 

  • What do you think is going to happen next?

 

  • I think everything will be back to normal soon. However, it will be better if we focus on the development of our economy. Everyone here is looking for the job, money and a way to stay alive. 

 

Consequences 

A demonstration outside the presidential palace in Jakarta escalated into clashes with police. President Joko Widodo was not at the palace; he was on a working trip to the province of Central Kalimantan. The protesters demanded the President to issue an emergency decree canceling the reforms.

“We vow to continue returning to the streets until the new law is revoked,” said Andi Khiyarullah, a protest organizer from the Indonesia Alliance’s student executive body.

The national COVID-19 task force spokesperson Wiku Adisasmito expressed concern about the virus spreading in the crowds of protesters, who stood close together in images from the scenes, many of them without masks.

“We remind you that we are still in a pandemic condition, there is a public health emergency,” he said.

The government reported Thursday that Indonesia’s total coronavir

us cases have risen to 320,564, including 11,580 deaths, which is the highest death toll in Southeast Asia. Cases in Jakarta alone stood at 83,372 with 1,834 deaths.

So far, there has been no compromise on either side. The protesters are going to continue to oppose and defend their human righ
ts, and the state, which has already passed the law, is not going to repeal it. The main concern should be focused on another field. The number of newly infected with coronavirus is growing all over the world, and the main question that should concern the state is how to eliminate the protests as soon as possible so that the number of cases does not become critical again.

The crowd gathered at the protest

A Molotov cocktail explodes near riot police officers as they clash with student protesters in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020.

Police officers disperse student protesters during a protest against a controversial omnibus bill on job creation.

 

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