This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.
After a three-day break, Indonesian students and an array of civil organisations took to the streets again yesterday to protest against controversial laws and amendments that many believe compromise the country’s democracy. Yesterday also marked the end of the term for members of the People’s Representative Council’s (DPR), the lawmaking body responsible for these bills.
Dani Darmawan, a student at the Jakarta State University, said he decided to continue rallying after the DPR refused to take protesters’ demands seriously.
The government had decided to push through with the law that weakens the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), the country's anti-corruption body.
It also has not revoked the other proposed changes to Indonesian law and only postponed the passing of one that will criminalise extramarital sex, and another that would allow corporations to exploit minerals and coal.
Last night, DPR Speaker Bambang Soesatyo announced that they passed 91 amendments during their term and that any pending ones—including those deemed problematic—would be passed on to the next set of representatives, whose term starts today and will last until September 2024.
“Our demands are clear and non-negotiable. If by Oct. 1 we don’t receive a response from the government, we will keep moving forward, whether on the streets or in the Supreme Court,” Darmawan told VICE.
The situation was chaotic in the capital Jakarta, where police erected a blockade 1 kilometre from the DPR building because students attempted to break in during previous protests.
In this second wave of rallies, students are stressing the issue of human rights violations in West Papua, which has seen a strict military presence since protests erupted in the region in response to the violent and unlawful detainment of dozens of minority students in August.
On the scene, VICE observed labour groups, non-governmental organisations, and vocational high school students participating in the protests in addition to the thousands of university students in front of the DPR building, where police have deployed 26,000 personnel.
At around 4 p.m., a group of protesters began throwing bottles and rocks at a police tactical vehicle. Police responded by firing tear gas that forced protesters onto the toll roads to avoid injury.
When the masses quieted down, students and civil leaders took turns giving speeches. The Papua issue was raised by labourers from West Papua goldmine PT Freeport Indonesia, who felt that the government failed to adequately address the region's problems.
Meanwhile, Asfinawati, the head of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation who goes by one name, urged protesters to continue pressing new representatives to pass anti-sexual assault laws.
“We can unite to urge the DPR to revoke these problematic amendments, for women, workers, students, and the people,” Asfinawati shouted from atop a car.
The scene turned violent just before 6 p.m., when protest coordinators began directing protesters towards the Jakarta Convention Center next to the DPR building. Tear gas shots were heard, but no injuries have been reported thus far.
In the city of Yogyakarta, protests attended by over 2,000 participants from three major universities came to a peaceful conclusion yesterday but continue today.
In a press conference, Indonesian President Joko Widodo gave students his blessing to continue protesting, as long as they voice their concerns nonviolently.
“The constitution gives us the freedom to express our opinions. What’s important is that you don’t start a riot and don’t resort to anarchy,” he said from the Bogor Presidential Palace.
The president promised to take students’ demands into consideration. “We hear you, we really hear you,” he said.
Still, Widodo has yet to issue a presidential decree to block the new legislation that would weaken the KPK, which he hinted at last week.