BANGKOK – Late on Monday night, Indonesian President Joko Widodo quietly signed into law a divisive stimulus bill that sent hundreds of thousands of Indonesians to the streets to protest.
The omnibus law was first introduced as an important job creation effort that would revive Southeast Asia’s largest economy, cut off the red ribbon and abolish a series of regulations that discourage investment.
But when they woke up on Tuesday, very few Indonesians knew exactly what was in the new law, which unexpectedly expanded from 812 to 1,187 pages. There are many contradictions: For example, Article 6 of 186, which is mentioned in Article 5 (1), is nowhere to be found.
“This is the worst legislative process I know of in Indonesian history,” said Bivitri Susanti, a lecturer at the Jentera Law School in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital. “There has never been such a mess.”
Indonesia is the country with the largest number of coronaviruses in the region, with at least 14,000 deaths and this year its economy is on track to enter its first recession in more than 20 years.
Critics have criticized the new law that deprives labor and environmental protection measures in a country where such safeguards have been poorly enforced. The stimulus allows certain development projects to proceed without the need for an environmental assessment or consultation with indigenous peoples. Indonesia’s burning of rain forests and peatlands, largely to make way for palm oil plantations, are major sources of carbon emissions globally.
The law removes requirements to pay minimum severance pay and mandatory leave for employees. It also allows businesses to replace full-time employees with cheaper contract employees. The Indonesian government says it will create about 1 million new jobs per year.
“The contents of the law, especially on the issue of employment, are almost entirely detrimental to workers,” said Iqbal, chairman of the Indonesian Trade Union Federation, on Tuesday.
Mr. Joko, who came to power in 2014 as a capable technocrat, unrestrained by Indonesia’s often corrupt politics, sold new laws if necessary to make the nation pop. fourth world into a better place to do business. He was re-elected last year for a second and final term, backed by a series of tycoons pushing for business reform.
After the stimulus bill was passed by the National Assembly in early October, hundreds of thousands of Indonesians took part in a nationwide three-day strike, sometimes turned into violent protests. Mr. Said, a unionist, said the strikes would continue.
His union coalition filed a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court on Tuesday morning, arguing that the new law violates workers’ constitutional rights. A successful judicial review could lead to deregulation, but legal scholars say the likelihood of such an outcome is very small.
Investors and academics alike were desperate on Tuesday to look for new laws – governing the dozens of existing labor, business and tax regulations – trying to figure out exactly what was in it. Incorrect paragraph references make it difficult to clarify Indonesia’s oil and gas reserve regulator regulations have been completely eliminated.
Five draft versions of the act were released across Jakarta for several weeks. What Mr. Joko signed on Monday night, the day before the deadline to sign the bill into law and while many labor activists and environmentalists were sleeping, was the sixth iteration.
Ms. Bivitri, Jentera Law School, said: “This draft, even after he signed, still has errors because they were in a hurry. “This is something that has angered the public even more because we will be affected a lot by the law but they don’t even take the process seriously.”