Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesia has been struggling hard to survive the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and its major impacts, notably the economic recession.

The country’s tally of confirmed cases reached 336,716, total recoveries at 258,519, and death toll at 11,935. It was ranked 21st on the Worldometer’s COVID-19 list of over 200 countries on Oct 13, 2020.

The country saw an economic contraction of 5.32 percent in the second quarter of 2020. Several million Indonesians became jobless owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nation had to face another burden caused by a political turmoil marked by major rallies on Oct 6-8 and Oct 13, in several cities following the House of Representatives’ (DPR’s) decision to endorse the government-proposed Job Creation Law on Oct 5, 2020.

The government affirmed that every stakeholder, including the representatives of employers, trade unions, academicians, and experts, were involved in drafting the Job Creation Law, Indonesia’s first omnibus law comprising 79 laws. The draft law was also introduced to the public, it stated.

On Oct 9, President Joko Widodo had highlighted numerous benefits of the law intended to boost domestic and foreign investment and create job opportunities for Indonesian workers. The law aims to protect the interests of Indonesian workers and the environment as well as boost the economy.

However, trade unions, students, several university lecturers, and activists hold diverse opinions, as they harbor concerns over the law benefiting companies rather than workers, as it would encourage outsourcing the employment system, allow foreign blue-collar workers to work in Indonesia, and endanger the environment.

Exchange of words continue unabated via mainstream and social media, but no solution lies in sight, as some people, including legislators, affirmed that work was still ongoing on the final draft of the law. When the Parliament endorsed the law, hard copies of the final draft were not distributed to the attending MPs.

"No, (we did not receive hard copies of the final draft). It is not yet completed, but it is already endorsed. What is being endorsed is a ghost bill," Benny Kabur Harman, the Democratic Party legislator, who decided to walk out while the endorsement was ongoing, stated.

Achmad Baidowi, DPR’s Legislative Board (Baleg) deputy chairman, refuted that it would be impossible to make copies of the law in such a short interval of time, adding that there was no obligation to distribute hard copies of the final draft to members during the plenary season.

Several people are yet awaiting the DPR’s confirmation on the final draft of the Job Creation Law, as several versions of the law have been posted on online media, such as the ones with 905 pages, 1,028 pages, 1,035 pages, and 1,052 pages.

President Jokowi believes that disinformation and social media hoaxes were causal to the widespread opposition to the Job Creation Law.

During the major rally on Oct 8, viral videos showed several arrested university students being asked whether they had read the final draft of the Job Creation Law, to which all replied in the negative, adding that they had never read the Law.

Nonetheless, protestors returned to the streets on Oct 13. To this end, the Jakarta Police deployed some 20 thousand officers to guard the capital city.

The Jakarta Metropolitan Police have named 87 people as suspects for their alleged involvement in violent rallies against the law on Oct 8, 2020.

“Yesterday, I said 285 people were being investigated. Now, only 87 of them have been named suspects,” Senior Commissioner Yusri Yunus, chief of the public relations section of the Jakarta Metropolitan Police, confirmed.

Seven of the 87 suspects are liable to face prison term of over five years, if found guilty, he pointed out.

In fact, the Indonesian police had earlier arrested 5,918 people suspected of creating chaos during rallies held in several parts of the country.

"During the rallies, which ended in anarchy, the Indonesian police had arrested 5,918 people," Chief of the Public Relations Division of the Indonesian Police Inspector General Argo Yuwono noted in a written statement on Oct 10.

Yuwono remarked that the status of the 240 arrested people was raised to the level of investigation for criminal offense.

"The state should not bow down to hooliganism and intolerance," he emphasized.

Furthermore, as many as 145 of the arrested demonstrators were found to be reactive in rapid testing for COVID-19, Yuwono stated.

In Jakarta alone, the police had conducted rapid tests on 1,192 arrested demonstrators.

The detained demonstrators comprised senior high school students, university students, workers, and members of anarchic groups.

Some one thousand police officers handling the rallies also underwent COVID-19 rapid tests.

Earlier, the Indonesian Medical Association’s (IDI’s) mitigation team had warned that widespread rallies against the Job Creation Law could give rise to new clusters of COVID-19 in the country.

Thousands of people met in the rallies, with most of them clearly disregarding physical distancing norms and not wearing masks, Chief of the IDI Mitigation Team Dr M. Adib Khumaidi, SpOT noted in a statement on Oct 9, 2020.

"By singing various songs and chanting, of course, demonstrators released droplets and aerosols that potentially transmit the coronavirus," he stated.

Under such current circumstances, paramedics and health facilities were overwhelmed to handle the rising number of COVID-19 cases, he pointed out.

In just the first week of Oct 2020, five doctors had died of COVID-19, he remarked.

"The figure brings the tally to 132 for the number of doctors succumbing to the disease. The fallen doctors comprise 68 general practitioners (including four professors) and 62 specialists (including five professors) and two residents," he noted.

Furthermore, both protesters and six police officers got injured during the rallies.

As per preliminary data, 60 protesters were injured and received medical treatment on Kwitang Raya Street, Central Jakarta, alone, according to the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) that had helped treat the injured demonstrators.

As everyone admits that the COVID-19 pandemic is a grave problem, the nation must channel its sights and efforts on handling infectious diseases that killed more than one million people globally.

The people must also be responsible for their own health and other people’s safety by adhering to health protocols that comprise staying at home, maintaining physical distancing, wearing a mask, and washing hands with soap.

Thus, the DPR also needs to focus on helping the government and people fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawmakers should ideally refrain from issuing policies that can trigger major opposition and do not directly concern the handling of COVID-19 in such a critical situation.

When the pandemic is brought under control, lawmakers will have ample time to produce or endorse any necessary laws, including the omnibus law that calls for time and energy for careful deliberation.

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Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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