The Indonesian Parliament yesterday handed President Joko Widodo the final draft of a new labor bill that sparked days of violent street protests and vandalism in the world’s third largest democracy.
Mr. Joko can sign the ratified bill, which simplifies the country’s complex legal system to encourage investment, to make it immediately effective. If he does not sign it, the bill will automatically enter into force 30 days after it is passed by Parliament on October 5. The government’s “omnibus bill” was first submitted to parliament in February for deliberation.
While the government has said the law will boost foreign investment and revive an economy battered by the coronavirus, union leaders have criticized it for exploiting workers and damaging the environment.
Tens of thousands of workers in the textile, energy and automotive industries, among others, took to the streets to demand that Mr. Joko, often referred to as Jokowi, block the bill. He hasn’t moved.
At least a dozen towns – from Medan in Sumatra in the west to Makassar in Sulawesi in the east – have seen days of protests marked by vandalism which, according to the leaders of the main unions, were not committed by workers but by other groups. They called on large crowds to gather in Jakarta this week in support of the protests being held in their respective cities.
Under Indonesian law, the president can issue an emergency decree called a perppu (government regulation in lieu of law) to overturn any law. This has been exercised from time to time in an emergency situation.
In 2016, Mr. Joko issued a perppu to introduce tougher penalties for child sex offenders, including the death penalty and chemical castration. Former President Megawati Soekarnoputri issued a brief to speed up the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing that killed more than 200 people.
Several unions are pursuing an alternative legal path, filing a petition with the Constitutional Court to challenge the new labor law.
The vigilant group Front of Islamic Defenders took to the streets on Tuesday to protest. He was joined by the 212 Rally Alumni, who were behind a rally in 2016 to prosecute Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy.
Ms. Elly Rosita and Mr. Said Iqbal, leaders of the main KSBSI and KSPI unions, said on Tuesday that they are not carrying out large-scale protests in Jakarta to prevent vandalism by “other elements”.
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