Indonesia: Omnibus “killing us slowly”, police-protestors clashes intensify

Students burnt tyres, bicycles and police property after continued use of extreme violence by the police those dissenting against the omnibus law in Indonesia

Protests in  Indonesia against the dangerous Omnibus bills entered the second week today. In the last week the protests intensified; disgruntled protestors torched police vehicles and stations after police officers repeatedly fired tear gas and water canons at them.

Labour activists and green groups had slammed the legislation for removing 79 existing statutes that are meant to protect workers as well as the environment. The Government hopes that this will increase foreign investment and claims it will create jobs, but Amnesty International stated that it is “catastrophic” for workers. One person said:

“I came to ask for justice. The Omnibus Law cannot be accepted by society, unless we are all rich people,” he said. “Our parents are labourers. Tuition fees, food, electricity, everything is very expensive in the Jokowi era. Setting up a system like this will bleed us dry. It’s like the government is trying to kill us slowly.”

President Jokowi stated

“What I see is the widespread protest against the Job Creation Law is basically driven by disinformation about the law’s substance and social media hoaxes,”

It should be noted, however, that the Government had paid influencers to speak in favour of the law on social media.
On Thursday, 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, reports Channel News Asia. Both before and after this turn, the police have been continuously using tear gas on dissenters- peaceful or otherwise- multiple times during the day. Black smoke rose across the capital late Thursday afternoon and into the night.

Such use of extreme force is despite the fact that police have tapped into people’s phones and messengers, and have been tracking their movement. So, they should have prior knowledge of the protests and able to control them using more peaceful methods. Nikkei

The state and afflicted media is also spreading propaganda against the protestors. Nikkei Asia determined that the protestors- largely consisting of environmental activists, workers and students- are actually “hard line Islamists“. While the headline makes it seem like they’re leading the protests, a radical group 212 had just joined one of the days.

The return of student protest has been considered a return to Indonesian political tradition which has been missing in the last two decades. Students have not been a particularly important political force, at least not in their own right. They have, in the recent past, affiliated with individual groups benefitting them, but are now strongly creating affiliations with workers. The main reasons for this has been considered rise of student organisations as well the fact that these students have grown up in an Indonesia where democracy is itself a tangible legacy of the Reformasi protests pioneered by students in 1998-99.

Read More: Omnibus bill: Massive protests in Indonesia over pro-market, anti-worker and environmentally hazardous policy

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