Batam workers oppose government restriction of rallies
The Jakarta Post
Batam workers' associations rejected on Friday the government's plan to limit workers' demonstrations, saying that it would violate freedom of expression laws.
'We reject it. How can we be listened to if the places [where demonstrations are allowed] are limited to three locations,' Federation of Indonesian Metal Workers' Union Batam chapter chairman Suprapto said.
Suprapto said workers would ignore the planned Riau Islands gubernatorial regulation and continue acting in accordance with current laws.
'Public actions will still be held at company sites if the situation calls for it,' he added.
Batam has been frequently jolted by massive demonstrations. The latest in January this year was conducted by hundreds of workers of PT Amtek Engineering, an Apple mobile phone contractor, who were demanding that a plan to change the company's name be dropped.
The strike, which paralyzed the company, was halted after an eight-hour mediation session between company executives and workers' representatives.
During a visit to Batam in June, President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo ordered the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) to investigate alleged foreign involvement in labor rallies that had reportedly caused investors to leave the Batam Industrial Zone.
Allegations of foreign support for workers were also made by the government following a massive and chaotic rally in 2011 involving at least 10,000 workers on the island. At least six people were injured, including one person who was shot.
In response to investors' complaints and to help maintain the investment climate in Batam, the government plans to restrict workers' strikes inside the island's free-trade zone.
The police similarly will also increase their efforts to prevent workers from holding demonstrations that disturb production activity in factories. Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said the government would regulate how workers could hold rallies.
The regulation, he said, would only allow rallies from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with locations limited to three venues, namely the governor's office, the Batam city legislative council building and the office of the Batam mayor.
'Demonstrations can no longer be held at factories. The country must be orderly,' Luhut said during a visit to Batam on Thursday, during which he was accompanied by National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti and Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri.
Badroidin said the police had six levels of public demonstration response. At the highest level, he said, the police were justified in using guns to deal with rallies considered dangerous. Level one only required a police presence.
'Forcing fellow workers to join rallies is not allowed. Rallies also cannot be conducted in front of a factory entrance as that can disturb traffic. We will act if that happens,' Badrodin said in his presentation about the National Police's commitment to dealing with workers' rallies.
Meanwhile, Hanif said that dialogue between employers and workers had to be maintained for the sake of good communication. That way, undesirable activities could be handled, he added.
'There must always be room for dialogue,' Hanif said.
Separately, Kepri Governor Muhammad Sani said the regulation on workers' rallies would make investors feel safe about their investments in the province. 'The regulation will be issued soon,' he said.
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