JAKARTA • 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 yesterday to show discontent over a divisive new job law.
Conservative Islamic groups are among the latest to join the volatile street demonstrations which saw police fire tear gas yesterday to try breaking up crowds, as pressure mounts on the government to repeal a law that protesters say undermines labour rights and environmental protections.
The country’s largest Islamic group, Nahdlatul Ulama, is among the law’s opponents. It says the legislation favours conglomerates while “trampling” on the rights of working-class Indonesians.
Mr Hamdan, 53, a Jakarta-based teacher who goes by one name, said he would keep protesting until the law was repealed.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 said. “Even my son still can’t find a job.”
Protests against the omnibus law took place in multiple locations and involved thousands of Indonesians last week. Streets were blocked, tyres set ablaze and rocks hurled, leading to more than 6,000 people being detained.
“The law will definitely affect myself, my job, my relatives, my friends and everything,” said engineer Rafi Zakaria, 30. “It doesn’t only affect labourers. Our students here joined the protest because they’re concerned about their parents’ jobs.”
The law, meant to reduce red tape and attract investors, has yet to be published and the unofficial versions circulating online have led to speculation and confusion.
Deputy House Speaker Azis Syamsyuddin said the law would be sent to President Joko Widodo and made public tomorrow.
The government is standing by the legislation and President Joko has blamed the public outcry on disinformation.
Indonesia’s Defence 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,” said ministry spokesman Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak.