Protests in Indonesia against Omnibus jobs law amid online police crackdown and coronavirus surge

Protests in Indonesia against Omnibus jobs law amid online police crackdown and coronavirus surge

  • Three days of planned protests against the controversial law began on Tuesday, even as the country struggles to get Covid-19 under control
  • Police directives include mandates to launch social media ‘cyber patrols’, ‘counter-narratives’ to stop millions of protesters from mobilising across country

As Indonesian workers and students on Tuesday began three days of live protests against a controversial jobs law passed the day before, much of the coordination and campaign has taken place online because of restrictions put in place for the Covid-19 pandemic, with one major obstacle to overcome: law enforcement agencies have launched a digital onslaught of their own to counter the protesters.

Late last week, the Indonesian National Police issued an internal notice to regional departments containing directives on how to control the planned street protests, which are seeking to mobilise millions of people and are taking place across 25 provinces in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.The Omnibus Law, which revised more than 70 regulations in an effort to cut red tape and improve the country’s investment climate, has been touted by President Joko Widodo’s reform-minded cabinet as necessary to shake the economy out of its doldrums. Indonesia is expected to enter into a recession this year for the first time since 1998, when Asia was rocked by a financial crisis.

The law would make it easier for companies to secure permits for mining and building projectsand exempts some firms from dividend taxes, but critics assailed it for removing a rule where the government has to consider the inflation rate in determining the minimum wage. This, they fear, will lead to much lower real wages for workers.Amnesty International Indonesia called the law “catastrophic”, and said it would “harm workers’ wallets, job security and their human rights as a whole”.