The famous Tugu Selamat Datang of Jakarta, or welcome monument, with bronze statues of a man and a woman waving warmly, was the scene of last week’s violent protests over a proposed sweeping “omnibus regulation” for tax and labor reform.
After a bus stop near the city ‘s iconic roundabout, known as Bundaran HI, plumes of black smoke leapt into the sky and were set ablaze. In order to disperse the mobs, which also fought near the National Monument, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the Presidential Palace, riot police fired tear gas and water cannon.
Similar scenes were replicated over three days in at least a dozen cities throughout the vast archipelago, from Medan on the island of Sumatra in the west to Makassar on the island of Sulawesi in the east.
In collective indignation, tens of thousands of employees from the textile, energy and automotive industries, among others, poured into the streets to demand the repeal of the job creation law passed in Parliament, three days earlier than expected.
In view of this, Labour unions argue the legislation slashes the rights of employees to a fair salary and undermines their job security. The lack of accountability and public participation in deliberating the Bill and the haste with which Parliament passed it into law was criticized by civil society groups.
The poor timing is slammed by analysts as the world is suffering economically because of the coronavirus pandemic. Also, businesses applaud the passage of the obsolete statute. They also argue that the legislation is fair to employees as new laws mandate employers in the event of job termination to pay contract workers. Lower severance pay and easier procedures for securing business permits would improve the competitiveness of Indonesia internationally and draw more investment.
The government said it had invited labor unions to discuss the Bill, but not all of them appeared as opinions were divided between them. It has also maintained that disinformation and fake news on social media are driving the protests. Some officials have also stated that the demonstrations are funded for self-serving reasons by prominent figures.