A mitigation against the reckless omnibus law of Job Creation

Indigenous people are threatened by reckless mining industries and the expansion of oil palm plantations. We conducted education activity with the Cibarani indigenous people in Banten province in 2022

Briefing on education module book publication for Indonesian people

On November 2020 Indonesia officially passed a law called the omnibus law of the job creation (JCL), which mainly aims at attracting investment with different ways like simplifying licenses, create jobs, yet claiming to harmonize over several dozens of laws and regulations at the cost of abolishing articles that were specifically provided to protect the citizens’ rights, granting power more to the central government at the cost of less power to the provincial/district governments that have more possibility to the people’s public services.

The law has seriously impacted the actual conditions of farmers, coastal communities and fishermen, indigenous people, and workers. Understanding the law is indeed painstaking for those people, and therefore we took the initiative to produce a handy publication that helps them understand what kinds of changes would impact negatively to their condition, and in turn they learn how to mitigate and fight against the adverse changes. The bulky document of the JCL has also shrunk people from reading it carefully and grasping the main issues behind the law. The division of the publication therefore needs to be set up in an easier way that the public may not take in such legalistic contents of the JCL. We avoid applying common division of clusters of issues set up by the lawmakers. Our publication opts then to center the focus of the presentation on the rights of the impacted people.

Summarizing the publication, the JCL changes, abolishes and inserts articles and verses, in to several modes of targets, i.e., stipulation of simplified licenses to investment, facilitated imports of products and capitals, reducing transparency and people’s participation in natural resource management, to facilitate land appropriation for investment, weakening provincial/district autonomy, centralizing power on the President and central government, while weakening the protection of the environment. All of these changes have impacted directly on people’s life conditions.

We invite two respected experts, first, Eko Prasetyo, the director of the Social Movement Indonesia, to give a review on the publication about what readers, particularly those who work close to the grassroots people, can expect to take benefits from. And, at the end of the book we present an analysis written by outstanding forest expert Hariadi Kartodihardjo from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB) who argues why Indonesia has been overwhelmed by ‘state-captured corruption’ that has forsaken its natural resources. The JCL represents such a corruptive state of mind that costs the life of marginalized people in the country.

The book, hardcopy and digital versions, then expounds the details of the imminent changes across different groups of Indonesian people. We pick main rural social groupings of farmers of staple products, farmers of horticulture and husbandry or livestocks, indigenous people, and workers, while women and children are included across the line.

The JCL abolished crucial articles that protect their interests while allowing staple food and seeds imports, wiping earlier law’s articles that impede imports. The JCL allows lands that had been protected specifically for food staple agriculture can now be used for business investment when it deems suitable for the so called ‘national strategic projects’. Seed imports are then particularly detrimental to the local heirlooms.

Fishermen with only small boats are no longer being protected by the law. Their fishing zones would be easier to be appropriated for investment such as for mining or other extractive, offshore industries. Their right to participate in utilizing coastal areas is also wiped out from earlier protective law. The bureaucratic distance between central government and people living in remote areas makes it impossible for any seemingly facilitating articles to materialize, as decentralization is curtailed.

The future of the indigenous people is even bleaker as the JCL abolishes articles providing rights of citizens to file lawsuits against any company with incomplete licenses on behalf of the protection and the environmental management. Civil society members are also barred from monitoring activity to the environment. Environmental soundness that shall be in accordance with existing spatial planning and the plantation development policy are no longer required for any company to set up industries. Impacted people, including the indigenous people, for public projects have now less say in negotiating the compensation value of their appropriated properties.

They are also barred from having exhaustive necessary information on the planned public projects. The JCL allows private companies to exploit our forests, including non-timber products, which previously they were barred from. This change would potentially take over the indigenous people’s access to forest, in which they have been living since. In the plantation sector, the JCL drops an article that punishes companies for not holding any license of opening plantations. The law also now allows forest entitlement only with applying satellite technology while ignoring the government’s obligation to resolve in advance existing, neglected tenurial conflicts, mostly between the government and the indigenous people.

Meanwhile, the condition of the workers has become worse as the JCL alters labor relation policy, confirming existing labor politics of low wage policy. The worsening workers’ conditions can be seen in the following changes, i.e :

  1. Workers lost their job security for easier unilateral layoff, less severance payment after dismissal,
  2. Degraded status of outsourced workers as their uncertain work position prolonged, increased types of their outsourced work, no job loss insurance,
  3. Keep retaining low wage policy as worker’s family status denied,
  4. In such situation the condition of female workers is worse impacted as there is no equality of wage regardless gender divide, formal stipulation of additional hours of overtime work without payment, no yearly leaves, maternal leaves,
  5. Abolition of wage council, while workers’ fear of layoff increases that impacts on weakening of workers’ organizing activities,
  6. Taking out the parliament’s role in wage policy. With such reversed development of workers’ conditions their life becomes much closer to slavery.

We then argue by applying an analysis of what human rights are being violated. For farmers, their basic right to life is the most violated as there have been many incidents of forced eviction for infrastructure development projects, driven by the JCL. As a result, there were also many farmers arrested, beaten for defending their properties, engendering violation of their right to physical integrity, their right to work, the right to an adequate standard of living, including to health and to food, to education particularly for their children. Their life was worse during the covid-19 pandemic.

All coastal, along with rural and indigenous communities generally suffer from violation of the right to participate in development as the JCL reduces the government’s obligation to involve them in planning, implementation and having benefits from. Recentralisation of the government’s authority in conducting public projects, as the JCL prescribes, also renders the participation of local people and local governments much reduced. This implies violation to the fulfillment of the principle of equality and non-discrimination in any development project. Their right to work is consequently also violated. This would be followed by subsequent violation of the right to have an adequate standard of living. With the different facilitations provided by the JCL the introduction of reckless investment potentially would pose more threats to the right to live of the rural people. Since 2002 as many as 189 people mostly peasants, farmers and fishermen were shot dead for their struggle to defend their land properties. The investment-driven extractive industries particularly mining and oil palm plantations have further damaged the already-vulnerable rain forests in the country, much reducing food growing areas harmful to the different sets of rights, i.e., to food, to water, and to health (diarrhea, skin and breath illnesses, and also Tbc), of housing, to work, and to their living cultures; and in longer turn have caused catastrophes like flush floods and landslides during rainy seasons, claiming local people’s life, while reducing life safety reflecting violation of the right to life security. Again, in such a situation, the rights of women and children are the most violated.

As for workers, with the enactment of the JCL, they suffer from the right to have protection for their works, right to have fair wages, right to have fair working conditions (working hours, time for rest, yearly leaves), right to organize, and right to social security. Of particular importance is that they also lack the right to have a happy family as provided by article 23 of the covenant of civil and political rights, when the Indonesian state keeps allowing employers and the public officials to maintain low wages, hardly necessary for workers to maintain the life of their families.

It is too much to let the indigenous people to learn about so-complicated law, only to their life detriments.

We dissolve the publication with a set of stories about how people fight for their rights before we conclude it into several important lessons learned, that if the forsaken people want to regain their rights, first, they have to form a working team recruiting those who really can be relied on, ready to sacrifice for all others who are suffering from rights violations. Second, to organize people who face the same fate of being violated the rights to accumulate social muscles in bargaining their interests against the private and public establishments. The bigger the members of the organization the more strength of the organization, but also the more threats they would face. Third lesson was, therefore, to even build stronger organizations, developing continuing activities of members’ education and information management are a must-do homework for the social movement to thrive, and not only to sustain. Research, study, mapping and documentation on the issues they fight for is very important, to delineate proper standing, define related demands, to negotiate, campaign and to drive advocacy actions and also to attract wider participation from different social groupings in lending support to social movements, while warning members about possible real threats of weakening the movement.

Fourth important step is to develop and further spread the networks of social movement, in order to strengthen the movement to effectively reach its goals. Larger networking will help the movement to further deepen knowledge and information about the fought issues, to enlarge public participation into the movement for social change, to help each other among network groupings when hardship and unanticipated backlashes occur like intimidation, violence, arrests, etc., to strengthen campaign, advocacy activity or position in legal battles.

While the movement has to pick up proper resistance strategy, focusing consistently on the goals of the movement, the fifth lesson opts for street rallies, occupations, disobedience, road/street blockade, strikes, hunger strike, boycott, ect. Legal battles at court of justice is another option to take. Art and mass media are also other options to further strengthen and widen public participation. Lodging complaints to the state institutions is likely useful for confirming the position of the social movement in the larger socio-political context in the country, while negotiating and diplomacy towards the governments that they likely take to side with the causes of the movement. And last but not least necessary action is to conduct international advocacy activity in this global context of international interdependence among different countries.**