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Jakarta Post

12 reasons why: Activists enumerate reasons to reject ‘colonial spirited’ omnibus bill

  • Kharishar Kahfi
    Kharishar Kahfi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, January 30, 2020   /   04:37 pm
12 reasons why: Activists enumerate reasons to reject ‘colonial spirited’ omnibus bill Members of the Labor with the People Movement (Gebrak), consisting of labor and student alliances, march toward the House of Representatives building to protest the omnibus bill on job creation in Jakarta on Jan. 13. (JP/Moch. Fiqih Prawira)

Forty civil society organizations in a coalition called the Indonesian People’s Faction (FRI) have rejected deliberations on an omnibus bill on job creation, arguing that the bill is “undemocratic”, as the drafting process only “involves businesspeople” and the bill “resembles the Dutch colonial administration’s attitude”.

The coalition argued that the employment system stipulated in the bill resembled the labor system used during the Dutch colonial era, in which businesspeople were allowed to employ workers on tobacco plantations for low wages and with no employment protections.

The colonial-era regulation, which was issued at the end of the 19th century, threatened workers with heavy punishment if they were found in violation of its terms, while businesspeople were punished with only light fines, the coalition said in a statement issued on Thursday.

“The bill returns to the national agrarian politics of the colonial era because [...] it has as its goal the facilitation of foreign investment to open land for business as much as possible, while taking away local and indigenous people’s rights to their land,” the statement said.

The coalition also criticized President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for dispatching law enforcement and intelligence agencies to approach organizations that rejected the bill and communicate with them about it.

“This practice is similar to that of the colonial police, who were tasked with arresting and torturing common people.”

Read also: Omnibus law ‘may sacrifice’ human rights, environment

The civil society groups presented 12 reasons why people should reject the omnibus bill on job creation:

1. The bill will legitimize investments that lead to environmental destruction, while the government tends to ignore existing investment by the people and indigenous communities, which is more environmentally friendly and bring more prosperity to the people.

2. There have been defects in the bill’s deliberation process because it was drafted in closed-door meetings without any participation from civil society organizations. It also included unconstitutional provisions.

3. The bill is elitist and does not accommodate the interests of citizens affected by the regulation.

4. It will concentrate authority within the central government, which is in contrast to the spirit of reform.

5. The threat of corruption is increasing due to a lack of monitoring and supervision as well as the elimination of citizens’ rights to sue.

6. It will lead to the seizure and destruction of the people’s living space.

7. The bill will worsen the environmental crisis due to unsustainable investments that lead to pollution, man-made ecological disasters and further destruction.

8. It will create modern slavery through the flexible manpower system as shown by provisions allowing workers to be paid under the minimum wage standard, allowing hourly-rate wages and an expansion of outsourcing working contracts.

9. It will create massive lay-offs and worsening working conditions.

10. [It will establish] an education system to create cheap labor for industry in-line with the massive number of investments.

11. The bill will threaten farmers, fishermen, indigenous communities, women and children, disabled people and other minority groups of faith, gender and sexuality.

12. It will create the potential for criminalization, repression and excessive force by the state apparatus against the people while the state provides legal immunity and privileges to businesspeople.

The government is preparing an omnibus bill on job creation, which, if passed, would amend more than 1,000 articles in various prevailing laws, including the Labor Law, whose rigid provisions have been blamed for hampering investment in the country. 

The bill’s stated aim is to ease doing business in the country, attract more foreign investment and create jobs.