Workers threatened, intimidated in lead up to May Day: Trade union leader

Source – May 2, 2021
May Day rally in front of Central Java governor's office in Semarang – May 1, 2021 (Istimewa)

Nasrudin Yahya, Jakarta – Labour Movement with the People (Gebrak) spokesperson Nining Elitos says that protesters received threats from outside parties prior to the commemoration of May Day 2021 in Jakarta on Saturday May 1.

"We faced threats long before the actual day", said Elitos at a press conference on Sunday May 2. The threats meanwhile took the form of reports and statements from security forces.

Local companies with workers planning to join May Day actions even threatened legal action against workers for violating health protocols during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the day itself meanwhile, workers from the Jakarta satellite cities of Bekasi, Tangerang and Bogor found it difficult to depart for Jakarta where the May Day 2021 celebrations were centred.

Elitos explained that at respective departure points, every single person was required to take a Covid-19 rapid or swab test. If not, officials prohibited them from leaving for Jakarta.

Unfortunately, even though they followed the orders of security personnel, workers in fact still found it difficult to join up with their colleagues who had already gathered in Jakarta.

"At our action, the individual protesters who were not just from labour groups, students, youths, right from the point of departure they experienced extraordinary pressure not to attend", she said.

Elitos said she deplored the way security personnel guarded the 2021 May Day celebrations which according to Elitos confirms the worsening democratic situation in Indonesia.

"We live it is said in a democracy, [but] the truth is we don't have any freedom. Power reaches down to the lowest levels, they [claim] they thirst for criticism, but we're not allowed to criticise. That is the reality which we face", she said.

As has been reported, scores of students who took part in celebrating May Day 2021 were arrested by police in the vicinity of the Arjuna Wiwaha Horse Statue in Central Jakarta on Saturday.

Central Jakarta district police chief Senior Commissioner Hengki Hariyadi said the students were arrested for violating health protocols.

The students were arrested and their hands tied with plastic handcuffs then taken to police vehicles. Quite a few of them tried to resist while calling for help.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Gebrak: Buruh Terima Ancaman Jauh Sebelum Pelaksanaan Aksi May Day".]