Jakarta – A number of workers planning to hold a protest action were arrested by police in the vicinity of the House of Representatives (DPR) and People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) building in Jakarta on Friday August 16.
The arrested workers were part of the People's United Labour Movement (Gebrak) who had come to Jakarta from various different areas.
Initially, Gebrak had wanted to voice its opposition to planned revisions to the 2003 Labour Law to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo who was attending the annual session of the MPR/DPR on Friday.
"We were asked to gather at a location then several of our members were taken away by police", said Gebrak spokesperson Ilhamsyah in a written press release received by CNN Indonesia on Friday.
In addition to this, Ilhamsyah said that police intimidated the workers with threats of violence and many were forced to remove trade union emblems and symbols that they were wearing.
Ilhamsyah said that similar incidents occurred on Friday morning at other locations where workers were planning to hold protest at the MPR/DPR.
One such incident occurred in Koja, North Jakarta. Ilhamsyah related how police prevented a command vehicle belonging to the Indonesian Harbour Transportation Labour Federation (FBTPI) from leaving the secretariat. Police blocked the vehicle using a garbage truck belonging to the Jakarta provincial government.
Meanwhile in Tangerang city, he continued, protesters from the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance Confederation (KASBI) were prohibited from leaving the area near their secretariat in Batuceper.
"It wasn't just police, TNI [Indonesian military] personnel were also involved in ambushing protesters in Bitung, Tangerang regency. They stopped a convoy of workers on motorcycles and prohibited them from continuing their journey. They were also asked to disperse immediately", he explained.
"We condemn the actions of the police against ordinary people wanting to convey their views in a public place, clearly the police committed a violation. This is bad example, that democratic space is again being steadily closed is becoming a reality", he continued.
According to Ilhamsyah, moves to prevent the labour protests were already apparent several days earlier. Protesters who had submitted a notification of the planned rally were not given a receipt of notification (STTP) by police.
"We already submitted a letter of notification with the Metro Jaya Polda [Jakarta provincial police] but they didn't want to make out or issue a STTP for our colleagues wanting to hold the action", said Ilhamsyah.
Several days before, Ilhamsyah also received an appeal from the police asking them to cancel the action. But, he said, the police did not provide a clear reason why the action should be cancelled.
"They didn't have any reason except maintaining the security situation at the DPR. We already said that we would convey our rights in accordance with the regulations on expressing opinion in a public place and we won't cause a riot or block any of the guests at the DPR", he said.
Meanwhile the general secretary of the Media and Creative Industries Trade Union for Democracy (Sindikasi), Ellena Ekarahendy said that the police's actions violated the mandate of the law.
According to Ekarahendy expressing an opinion in public is guaranteed in democratic countries. "Blocking actions by trade unions and workers does irreparable damage to the mandate of democracy", said Ekarahendy.
Metro Jaya police public relations division head Senior Commissioner Argo Yuwono claims not to know about the incidents. "I don't have any information about it. I was in front of the DPR, on the road", he said.
The 2019 annual session of the MPR held on Friday took up the theme "Superior Human Resources, Advancing Indonesia".
During this year's session, Widodo gave his speech in three parts. Widodo was accompanied by First Lady Iriana Jokowi and Vice President Jusuf Kalla and his wife, Mufidah Jusuf Kalla. (psp/ugo)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Polisi Tangkap Buruh Saat Mau Demo ke DPR".]