Tear gas fired near Jakarta palace as protests against new jobs law in Indonesia enter third day
JAKARTA: Tear gas was fired near the presidential palace in Jakarta on Thursday (Oct 8) afternoon, where demonstrators have gathered to protest against the new Job Creation Law.
A large crowd of people took to the streets on the third day of heated protests over the omnibus job creation law passed on Monday which they said would favour businesses and investors at the expense of the workers.
Chaos erupted at 2pm when the protesters tried to breach a police barricade guarding the West Merdeka Street, where key government offices are located.
They hurled rocks and the police responded by firing tear gas, sending them scrambling to safety. A police outpost was set on fire.
Some protesters burned tyres, vandalised bus stops and dismantled partitions of a construction site while others were seen smashing bricks and concretes into smaller pieces to be hurled at the police.
At 4pm, more tear gas was fired as police tried to push protesters back from their original positions.
This sent some protesters fleeing as police sirens blared in the distance.
Earlier, more than 1,000 demonstrators protested near the parliament complex in Jakarta at noon.
The protesters arrived on motorcycles and immediately clogged Jakarta's Gatot Subroto street, but they were blockaded by hundreds of police officers armed with tear gas launchers and full combat gear.
A standoff ensued with some protesters shouting at the police officers, demanding them to open their barricade. Others chanted "long live workers", among other slogans, while honking and revving their motorcycles.
After a 10-minute standoff, the protesters agreed to move to the nearby Jakarta Convention Centre.
They disbanded about 40 minutes later after the police ordered them to leave on the reason that the protest had violated the physical distancing rule to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Elsewhere, there were numerous media reports of similar protests staged across the country which ended in violence.
There were also reports of hundreds of arrests made, including those who tried to breach police barricades and defied orders to disperse.
On Thursday morning, heavy security presence was seen near the parliament complex and around the presidential palace, with thousands of heavily armed officers in riot gear and armoured vehicles standing by. Streets and roads surrounding the two locations have also been barricaded with razor wires and concrete barriers.
Police have also deployed hundreds of officials to Jakarta's border areas to prevent people from outside of Jakarta from joining the protests.
Mr Iyut Bastcho of the Independent Labour Unions Confederation told CNA on Thursday afternoon that many demonstrators were stranded as police have completely shut off access from Cikarang, an industrial area 20km east of Jakarta, to the capital.
He expressed his disappointment that the Bill was passed on Monday despite widespread rejection.
"(Indonesian President) Jokowi still has the chance to do the right thing and veto the law and stop it from being enacted.
"He should listen to people's wishes. But we are pessimistic that he would do that," he said.
Moving forward, Mr Bastcho said the unions would consider challenging the law at the Constitutional Court.
"We have challenged the old labour law 13 times and some (attempts) were successful. And the old law is better than the new law. So we are optimistic that the Constitutional Court will repeal the law or some of the articles which hurt our rights as labourers," he said.
450 INDIVIDUALS NABBED: POLICE
The Jakarta police arrested 450 people in the Thursday protests.
Jakarta police spokesman Yusri Yunus told CNA that about 20 of them received a positive result for their COVID-19 rapid tests and have to be quarantined.
"Jakarta is still under the PSBB (large-scale social restrictions). We have to disband them. We cannot afford another cluster. Jakarta is already recording 1,000 cases daily," he said on the police's decision to fire tear gas at the protesters.
Mr Yunus said the police believed that the individuals arrested were not students nor labourers, but school kids and the unemployed who infiltrated the protests to create chaos and unrest.
"We do not know if they were mobilised or paid. We do not know what their motivation was in joining the protests," he said.