Jakarta – The Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) has accused President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's government of being undemocratic after police blocked a protest action by trade unions near the House of Representatives (DPR) and People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) building in Jakarta on Friday August 16.
Earlier, the workers had planned to hold a rally in front of the parliamentary complex where Widodo would be giving his State of the Nation Address in the lead up to the 74th anniversary of Indonesia's independence.
"We see this [the blocking of the labour actions] as a familiar pattern, for us Jokowi is very undemocratic. No one actually needs to be afraid of protest actions by Gebrak [the People's United Labour Movement]", LBH Jakarta Community and Urban Affairs head Nelson Nikodemus Simamora told journalists at the LBH Jakarta offices on Saturday August 17.
LBH believes that the actions planned by Gebrak and the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI) would have been relatively secure and would not have caused a riot.
In addition to this, LBH said it regretted the police's actions in arresting several Gebrak and KASBI members who were on their way to the rally.
"Participants who were just on their way to the location were first blocked and then arrested when they arrived at the location, they hadn't even started protesting yet and they were arrested", said Simamora.
As has been reported earlier, police secured 21 workers who were planning to hold a protest action at the House of Representatives (DPR) and People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) building in Senayan, South Jakarta.
The action in front of the DPR/MPR building during the MPR's annual assembly had actually been organised to oppose planned revision to the 2003 Labour Law. As many as 21 people were taken into custody in front of the TVRI television station building as they were on their way to the rally.
Thousands of others were blocked by police preventing them from holding an action under the Senayan flyover.
In addition to this, as police were blocking the demonstrators, a number of journalists covering the action were intimidated by police.
The violence occurred when the demonstrators were gathering in front of the TVRI offices. Police broke up the gathering and forced them into a police vehicle before the rally had even begun.
Journalist who were photographing the moment were intimidated including journalists from Business Indonesia, a photo journalist from the Java Post and a journalist from SCTV.
Speaking separately, national police public information bureau chief Brigadier General Dedi Prasetyo said that they will look into the cases. The police however were reluctant to respond to allegations that the officers responsible for the intimidation and violence against journalists were not wearing official police uniforms.
"Regarding the plain-clothed [officers] I don't want to comment, as to the [officers] wearing official uniforms we will look into which units they came from", said Prasetyo at the national police headquarters. (din/kid)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Sikapi Aksi Buruh, Rezim Jokowi Dinilai Mulai Tak Demokratis".]