Alya Nurbaiti, Jakarta – Thousands of students from the National Association of University Student Executive Bodies (BEM SI) staged another round of protests on Friday to demand that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo rescind the controversial Job Creation Law, as well as to convey their opposition to protest restrictions and alleged police brutality.
The students, who were from 26 universities under the BEM SI, gathered at the Arjuna Wiwaha monument, better known as the Horse Statue, near the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta at 1 p.m. Other groups of students gathered at the Kuningan Flyover in South Jakarta. Some students carried signs rejecting the law, such as "Vote of No Confidence".
Bagas Maroupindra, BEM SI coordinator for Greater Jakarta and Banten, said Friday's protests continued the students' fight against the contentious jobs law and expressed their objection to an Oct. 9 Education and Culture Ministry circular that called on university students not to take part in jobs law protests.
"We see [the circular] as an attempt to silence the students' movement," he said.
The BEM SI also demanded that the government evaluate the National Police for alleged violence against and repression of protesters, including students and activists.
The police have been under fire for allegedly using excessive force against protestors and journalists during mass rallies last week after the House of Representatives passed the omnibus bill on job creation into law on Oct. 8.
Thousands were apprehended in the nationwide rallies, and activists have accused the police of abusing protestors.
Bagas added that the demonstrators were seeking a meeting with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. "We hope the President will come see us because the public has staged protests a number of times, but the government never listens," he said.
However, Jokowi was not in the Jakarta Presidential Palace during the protest on Friday. He was staying at Bogor Palace.
"He is at the palace [in Bogor] to attend an internal agenda, receiving several guests and ministers," Presidential Secretariat head Heru Budi Hartono told kompas.com on Friday morning.
Heru maintained that Jokowi's absence from Jakarta was not to avoid the protest, adding that the president liked to work in Bogor Palace as the weekend approached. "Usually, he is [in Bogor Palace] on Thursday and Friday," he said.
Jokowi sent a member of his special staff, Aminuddin Ma'ruf, to meet the protesters in front of Merdeka Palace at 3 p.m. "I will convey the BEM SI's statement regarding the jobs law to the president," he said.
At the Kuningan Flyover, students reportedly burned tires in the middle of the road while delivering speeches. Traffic under the flyover was diverted by the police.
The protestors dispersed as heavy rain hit the capital city at about 4:15 p.m. South Jakarta Police personnel escorted the students from Kuningan to their starting point in East Jakarta.
The protesters at Merdeka Palace, however, withstood the rain for a while before it got heavier and prompted them to leave at 4:30 p.m.
Before the students' departure, a speaker read out their demands in front of Central Jakarta Police chief Sr.comr. Heru Novianto. The students booed Jokowi for once again failing to meet the protesters and sending a representative instead.
Earlier, Jakarta Police spokesperson Sr.comr. Yusri Yunus said some 18,000 personnel from the police, the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the Jakarta Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) had been deployed in the capital city to beef up security during the student protest.
Opposition to the jobs law continued in other regions on Friday as well, such as in Bogor regency and Sukabumi, West Java. In Bogor, members of a local labor group demanded that Bogor Regent Ade Yasin send a letter to Jokowi urging him to issue a regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) to rescind the omnibus law.
Meanwhile, about 100 protesters, consisting of students, farmers and workers demonstrated in front of the Sukabumi Legislative Council building. A downpour drenched the protesters, but they continued to deliver speeches until two councilors, Maming Surita of the Democratic Party and Wawan Juanda of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) met with them in the rain.
Students and workers have said they will continue taking to the streets until the omnibus law is revoked.
"We will keep fighting back. The wave of demonstrations will continue," Federation of Cigarette, Tobacco, Food and Beverage Workers Unions (FSP RTMM) deputy head Tugino said in a virtual discussion on Friday.