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Clashes erupt over new Indonesian labor law

Clashes erupt over new Indonesian labor law”

Police and demonstrators clash in the capital Jakarta on the third day of protests against a polarising new bill that critics say will harm labour rights and environment.

In the past two days, nearly 400 people have been detained in major cities, and two students hospitalised with serious head injuries, as protests have swept across the archipelago.

In the past two days, almost 600 people have been detained, and two students seriously injured, while police have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.

As night fell, some protesters set fire to a subway shelter in downtown Jakarta, causing the area to turn an eerie orange colour.

Another police spokesman, Erdi Adrimulan Chaniago, said a further nine had been arrested in the city of Bandung, West Java.

The government hopes a new bill - which aims to cut red tape by amending dozens of existing laws covering taxation, labour and environment regulations - will attract foreign investment.

Critics say the new legislation, locally known as the "omnibus law", scraps some labor rights, indigenous community rights and environmental protections.

"This is our struggle for our children and grandchildren and our future generations", protester and Astra Honda worker Maulana Syarif told Aljazeera.

"Broadly, we think that the reform package - if implemented well - could move Indonesia toward a new regime of reduced policy uncertainties.This is because many clauses have endowed the central government with the authority to issue regulations in case deadlocks occur at the regional level", Helmi Arman, an economist at Citi Indonesia, was quoted as saying.

Two protesters hurl a bicycle to a burning metro station with black smoke taking up most of the
Protesters add a bicycle to a burning metro station during a rally in Jakarta

Indonesia is eagerly courting foreign investors as key drivers of economic growth in a nation where almost half the population of 270 million is younger than 30.

Bahlil Lahadalia, the head of Indonesia's Investment Coordinating Board, appealed to young people to trust the government's intent for the law, which is to create jobs. "We ask that the law be repealed immediately", he said.

But others beg to differ.

Said Iqbal, president of trade union KSPI, among the biggest group behind the protests, said there no was planned rally for Friday, but another labour leader yesterday evening pledged to continue demonstrating.

"I feel a responsibility to the Indonesian people", said another demonstrator, IT student Arawinda Kartika, as she marched toward the palace.

At least four other governors have told protesters they would write to the president asking for the law to be cancelled, according to their statements and local media reports.

Police had banned the protests on the grounds it could spread the coronavirus.

Experts believe the true figures are much higher, however, but hidden by a lack of testing.

More news: Stolen $300m Mao scroll found 'cut in half': Hong Kong police



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