Thousands of student demonstrations have clashed with riot police in Indonesia over a law which allegedly cripples the country’s anti-corruption agency. Demonstrating students urging the president, Joko Widodo, to halt legislation allegedly aimed at paralysing anti-corruption efforts.
Clashes between rock-throwing students and riot police broke out on Monday evening when police tried to disperse the protesters, ranging from high school to university students, who attempted to reach parliament.
Authorities blocked streets leading to the parliament building in Jakarta, where 560 members of the House of Representatives held their last session. Protesters set fires to tyres and pelted police with rocks, petrol bombs and firecrackers. Similar clashes also occurred in other Indonesian cities, including in West Java’s Bandung city and in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi province, where a student was badly injured on Friday after being accidentally hit by anti-riot armour.
A protest also turned violent in President Joko Widodo’s hometown of Solo city in Central Java, where an angry mob threw rocks at police, injuring at least four female officers.
Efforts by the outgoing Parliament to rush through a series of contested bills with the president’s approval before its five-year session ended Monday have aroused national concern over the measures, which opponents say would transform Indonesia into a less tolerant and more repressive society. Protesters fear the reintroduction of the measures after the new Parliament is sworn in on Tuesday.
Activists say the revision weakens the powers of one of the most credible public institutions, anti-corruption body, in a country where the police and parliament are perceived as being widely corrupt.
They are also demanding the new lawmakers change articles in the proposed criminal code, including one that would criminalise a variety of sexual activities such a premarital sex.
The protests have grown since last week and turned violent in some cities, with the burning of police posts and public facilities such as a toll gate and bus stops.