An uneasy calm settles on Jakarta after days of violent protests

A protester throws himself against a wall of police shields in Jakarta.

A protester throws himself against a wall of police shields in Jakarta. Photo: Twitter/Al Fatiha

Authorities in Indonesia’s capital are cleaning up burned-out cars, government offices and bus shelters that were set ablaze by protesters enraged over a new law they say will cripple labour rights and harm the environment.

Protests in many Indonesian cities turned violent on Thursday. At least 20 bus stops and other transit facilities were destroyed in Jakarta, causing 55 billion rupiah ($A5.1 million) in damage, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said.

Calm has largely returned on Saturday after the government warned protesters it won’t tolerate any further destruction and attacks on police and communities.

Labour organisers staged a three-day national strike from Tuesday to demand the government revoke the legislation.

The Job Creation Law approved by Parliament on Monday is expected to substantially change Indonesia’s labour system and natural resources management.

It amended 79 previous laws and was intended to improve bureaucratic efficiency as part of efforts by President Joko Widodo’s administration to attract more investment.

The demonstrators say the law will hurt workers by reducing severance pay, removing restrictions on manual labour by foreign workers, increasing the use of outsourcing, and converting monthly salaries to hourly wages.

Widodo told a televised news conference on Friday that the new law was meant to improve workers’ welfare.

“What I see is the widespread protest against the Job Creation Law is basically driven by disinformation about the law’s substance and social media hoaxes,” Widodo said.

He also dismissed reports that workers wouldn’t be paid during their leave.

“I assure you that this is untrue. Workers’ leave still remains and is guaranteed,” Widodo said.

Widodo urged those who are dissatisfied with the new law to challenge it at the Constitutional Court and avoid protests.

Jakarta Police spokesman Yusri Yunus said police have arrested 1192 protesters, half of them high school students who came from outside the city.

“Most of them don’t understand the substance of the new law,” Yunus said.

“They have been provoked by invitation on social media to create a riot in Jakarta.”

Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, is eagerly courting foreign investors as key drivers of economic growth in a nation where nearly half the population of 270 million are younger than 30.


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