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Islamic groups, students oppose Indonesia jobs law, as protests enter second week

Published: Updated:

Wearing white Islamic garb and waving red and white Indonesian flags, more than 1,000 protesters from Islamic and student groups gathered in the
world’s most populous Muslim nation on Tuesday to show discontent over a divisive new jobs law.

The demonstrators are demanding that the law, designed to attract investors and cut bureaucracy, be repealed and say it threatens labor rights and favors big business.

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Conservative Islamic groups are among the latest to join the volatile street demonstrations, during which police fired tear gas on Tuesday to try to break up crowds, as pressure mounts on the government to repeal a law they say undermines labor rights and environmental protections.

A demonstrator holds a stick during clashes with riot police officers following a protest against the new so-called omnibus law, in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 13, 2020. (Reuters)
A demonstrator holds a stick during clashes with riot police officers following a protest against the new so-called omnibus law, in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 13, 2020. (Reuters)



The country’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, is among its opponents and says it favors conglomerates while “trampling” on the rights of working-class Indonesians.

Hamdan, a 53-year-old teacher who goes by one name, said he would keep protesting until the law was repealed.

“People can’t go out, some people can’t even eat and unemployment is still high,” he told Reuters in Jakarta. “Even my son still can’t find a job.”

Protests against the so-called omnibus law took place in multiple locations involving thousands of Indonesians last week, some of which saw streets blocked, tires burned and rocks hurled, leading to more than 6,000 people being detained.

“The bill will definitely affect myself, my job, my relatives, my friends and everything,” said engineer Rafi Zakaria, 30.

“It doesn’t only affect laborers. Our students here joined the protest because they’re concerned about their parents’ jobs.”

The law, designed to reduce red tape and attract investors, has yet to be published and the unofficial versions circulating in the media and online have led to speculation and confusion.

Deputy house speaker Achmad Baidowi told Reuters the law would be sent to the president and made public on Wednesday.

The government is standing by the legislation and President Joko Widodo has blamed the public outcry on disinformation. Indonesia’s defense minister has blamed the demonstrations on “foreign interference.”

“There are those who do not want to see Indonesia as conducive to investors, and want to always benefit from that,” the ministry spokesperson, Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, said, without elaborating.