One of Indonesia’s largest labor groups says it will defy a police ban on staging May Day rallies in the capital enacted to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Indonesian news site Kumparan reported on Wednesday.
Kahar Cahyono, spokesman for The Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI), told Kumparan that at least 50,000 people plan to attend rallies outside Indonesia’s House of Parliament (DPR) and the office of the Coordinating Economic Affairs Minister next Thursday, one day before International Workers’ Day on May 1.
KSPI insists that the physical distancing measures currently in place in Jakarta due to the coronavirus pandemic are not a sufficient reason to limit workers’ freedom of expression.
The Jakarta Metro Police said this week that it planned to disperse crowds gathering for banned May Day rallies in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus in the capital, Indonesian news site Coconuts Jakarta reported on Wednesday.
KSPI leader Said Iqbal said the group would only cancel May Day rally plans if DPR halted deliberation on a job creation bill, which labor groups claim would diminish workers’ rights if passed, according to Coconuts Jakarta.
The coronavirus has hit Jakarta harder than any other region in Indonesia, making the defiance of the ban on large gatherings even more alarming. The capital accounts for two-thirds of all coronavirus cases in the country.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported Jakarta’s Governor Anies Baswedan extended large-scale social distancing measures already in place in the capital, including a ban on gatherings of more than five people, to May 22.
Governor Anies has repeatedly pressured Indonesia’s president to place the capital on a strict lockdown, but he refuses, instead insisting that “large-scale social restrictions” will be sufficient to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Jakarta has a population of over ten million people and is located on the island of Java, the world’s most populous island, home to 141 million people. Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country, currently has the highest coronavirus death rate in east Asia outside of China, and the highest death rate in Southeast Asia, according to statistics released by the country’s health ministry over the weekend.
At press time on Wednesday, Indonesia had officially reported 7,418 infections and 635 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus.