Jakarta – Students have taken to the streets on the first day that the revised Corruption Eradication Commission Law (UU KPK) came into effect. The students are urging President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to issue a government regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) to annul the law.
This time round, the student's protests appeared different from the wave of demonstrations at the House of Representatives (DPR) when the KPK Law was first enacted.
The demonstration at the Horse Statue in Central Jakarta on Thursday October 17 was quite brief and the protesters, who had planned to start at 1 pm, only arrived at the location at 2.47 pm.
The demonstrators, who came from the All Indonesia Student Executive Council (BEM SI), wore coloured jackets from their respective campuses including the Yogyakarta National Development University, the Yarsi Jakarta State University (UNJ) and the Bogor Institute of Agriculture. In total around 20 campuses took part in the action.
The students also unfurled a banner with the message "Take Action" and brought the flags of their respective campuses.
In addition to this, several students brought posters with satirical messages about the Perppu KPK, one of which read, "A bad person is a good person who doesn't issue a Perppu KPK – Joker".
UNJ BEM Chairperson and action coordinator Muhammad Abdul Basit said that the student's main demand was urging Widodo to issue a Perppu to annul the KPK Law.
"Specifically today we are urging Pak [Mr] Jokowi to immediately issue a Perppu KPK and restore the previous KPK Law", said Basit at the location.
Basit emphasised that today's demonstration was not related to the president's inauguration on October 20. Although he said that he believes that Widodo will have failed to fulfill his election campaign pledge of strengthening the KPK if by the inauguration he still has not issued the Perppu.
"Yes it will mean that Pak Jokowi has failed in relation to his Nawa Cita [Nine Point Priority Program] on eradicating corruption. Yes the public will see for themselves whether Pak Jokowi is siding with the political parties or the Indonesian public", he said.
Basit gave assurances that the students will not stop pressuring Widodo to issue a Perppu, although he was not able to confirm plans for follow up actions. But what is clear is that the students have the stamina for a long struggle to pressure him to issue a Perppu.
"I can confirm that we will never stop. We still have lots of stamina", he said.
Basit was also not able to confirm whether or not the BEM SI will demonstrate on October 20 or not. Although he claimed that they would not disrupt the inauguration of Widodo and vice president elect Ma'ruf Amin for the period 2019-2024.
"Yes we will return to the substance of our demands. If we protest on the 20th it won't be substantial, no we won't hold an action, because what will happen, right, security around the DPR is very tight. Moreover there's the momentum of the inauguration. Yes and Pak Jokowi also has the right to this. So we won't disrupt the inauguration", he said.
Furthermore, Basit suggested that there have been efforts to deflate opposition so that the demonstrations today have been smaller than they had targeted. People have also been asked not to demonstrate on October 15-20.
"Very true (it's less than the target). Because like it or not, we know that our colleagues don't want to demonstrate because there are concerns over this view. Automatically there has been pressure as well as threats from the police which are related to freedom of expression in public", he said.
Basit also admitted to feeling disappointed with the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Technology Research which has called on campus rectors to ban students from holding actions.
These prohibitions have been in the form of written notifications or circulars by campus authorities. At the UNJ he said, the campus offered alternatives to students such as seminars or art events.
"Particularly at UNJ we were offered particular agendas such as seminars, art events on campus to divert attention from actions between the 15th and 20th (of October) so that we don't take to the streets. That's what they did. So in relation to the deflation right now there are enticements being offered", he said. (idn/idh)
Although President Widodo has not signed off on the new KPK law which was passed by the DPR on September 17, under Indonesian law, new legislation automatically comes into effect 30 days after being passed even if the president does not sign it.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Aksi Singkat Mahasiswa di Hari Perdana UU Baru KPK".]