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Indonesians take to the streets to protest new labor law

Protests against Indonesia's new jobs law were held in cities across the country on Tuesday, with demonstrators calling on the president to revoke the legislation they say will erode labor rights and weaken environmental protections.

More than 1,000 students and workers gathered near the Presidential Palace in Jakarta to express their anger at the legislation, which was passed on Oct. 5. Protests were also held elsewhere in the country, including in Bandung, Surabaya and Makassar.

There were no immediate reports of the violence that marred earlier protests against the jobs law.

Protesters shout slogans during a march protesting against the new jobs law in Jakarta, Indonesia,Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Protests against Indonesia's new jobs law were held in cities across the country on Tuesday, with demonstrators calling on the president to revoke the legislation they say will erode labor rights and weaken environmental protections. The banner held by the protesters reads: "Protest against the new Job Creation Law." (AP PhotoAchmad Ibrahim)

The new legislation, which amends 79 existing laws and regulations, is expected to bring radical changes to Indonesia’s labor system and natural resources management. President Joko Widodo's administration says it is needed to ease bureaucracy, attract more investment and create jobs at a time when Southeast Asia's largest economy is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

While the legislation was greeted by the business community, critics allege it will do more harm than good.

Those gathered Tuesday, the first anniversary of Widodo's second term, voiced their frustration at the president's overall performance.

People march protesting against the new jobs law in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Protests against Indonesia's new jobs law were held in cities across the country on Tuesday, with demonstrators calling on the president to revoke the legislation they say will erode labor rights and weaken environmental protections. (AP PhotoAchmad Ibrahim)

“Instead of making Indonesia more advanced, the fact is that the people are screaming because of the policies that do not take side of the majority of the Indonesian people,” Remy Hastian, the coordinator of the National Association of University Student Executive Bodies, said in a statement.

The president should revoke the jobs law and replace it with less sweeping regulations, said Nining Elitos, chairwoman Congress Alliance of Indonesian Labor Unions.

Elitos said that beyond the jobs law, she has been disappointed with the president's performance.

Police officers detain protesters during a rally against the new jobs law in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Protests against Indonesia's new jobs law were held in cities across the country on Tuesday, with demonstrators calling on the president to revoke the legislation they say will erode labor rights and weaken environmental protections. (AP PhotoAchmad Ibrahim)

"Over the past year we saw those in power getting more opposite to the people,” Elitos said.

Widodo was sworn for his final five-year term last year and pledged to champion democracy and take bolder actions against poverty and entrenched corruption in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.

He has been widely praised for his efforts to improve Indonesia’s inadequate infrastructure and reduce poverty, which afflicts close to a 10th of the nation's nearly 270 million people.

Protesters are led by police after being detained during a rally against the new jobs law in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Protests against Indonesia's new jobs law were held in cities across the country on Tuesday, with demonstrators calling on the president to revoke the legislation they say will erode labor rights and weaken environmental protections. (AP PhotoAchmad Ibrahim)

In an interview with The Associated Press in July 2019, Widodo said he would push ahead with sweeping and potentially unpopular economic reforms, including the more business-friendly labor law, because he is no longer constrained by politics in his final term.

A plainclothes police officers detain protesters during a rally against the new jobs law in Jakarta, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. Protests against Indonesia's new jobs law were held in cities across the country on Tuesday, with demonstrators calling on the president to revoke the legislation they say will erode labor rights and weaken environmental protections. (AP PhotoAchmad Ibrahim)