Indonesian students refuse President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's invitation to meet at the Presidential Palace on Friday, following four days of nationwide protests that have turned into a deadly conflict with the security forces. (Antara Photo/Zabur Karuru)

Meet Us on the Street Mr. President: Students

SEPTEMBER 27, 2019

Jakarta. The Alliance of Indonesian Student Executive Boards have refused an invitation to meet with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Friday, following four days of nationwide protests that have turned into violent clashes with security forces.

The students instead requested that the meeting with Jokowi be held out in public so people could see the President's real stance on their demands.  

"[The meeting] should be out in the open and witnessed live through national television channels," Muhammad Nurdiyansyah, the alliance's coordinator, said as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

Nurdiyansyah said the students had clearly stated their demands during the street protests and also in the media. He said what the students want this time is to see Jokowi reveal his real stance toward their demands in front of everyone. 

"Our demands have never been about securing a meeting [with the president]. Our goal is for the president to fulfill those demands," Nurdiyansyah said.

Seven Demands

The students have put forward seven demands to the government. First is the rejection of several bills they deem problematic: the criminal code bill, the mineral mining bill, the agrarian bill, the correctional institution bill and the employment bill.

The House of Representatives (DPR) has only passed the correctional institution bill so far while putting on hold the criminal code bill.  

Second, the students demand the ratification of the elimination of sexual violence bill and domestic workers protection bill. The House said it would leave deliberations of the elimination of sexual violence bill to the next term of the national legislature. 

Third, the students demand that the president annul the revisions to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) law and the water resources law passed by the House last week.

Jokowi said on Thursday he considered issuing a presidential decree in lieu of law to annul the amended KPK law. 

Fourth, the students demand the dismissal of new KPK leaders whose election by the House last week they deem as problematic. 

The students' fifth demand is a rejection of the Indonesian Military and National Police personnel occupying civilian positions.

Sixth, the students demand the government must stop prosecuting human rights activists. Instead, the government should sue individuals and companies who set off the forest fires that engulfed Sumatra and parts of Kalimantan this year. 

Their seventh and final request was for the government to resolve all past human rights violations, to punish violators currently still in office and to restore the rights of the victims.

One Student Killed in Fatal Shooting

Nurdiyansyah said the students' refusal to meet with Jokowi at the State Palace stemmed from their experience four years ago. The student movement at that time experienced a serious split after a closed-door meeting with the president.

"We've learned from that experience; we do not want to be a tool for rulers who are facing a crisis of public legitimacy, just so they can brush aside the substance of our demands," he said.

Jokowi said on Thursday he appreciated the demonstrations by thousands of students across the country as an expression of democracy in Indonesia. 

"The most important thing is protesters should not damage public facilities, create anarchy or threaten harm to anyone," Jokowi said.

Increasingly intense protests have been springing up in several regions of Indonesia since Monday. Some escalated to skirmishes between the students and security forces as police tried in vain to disperse large crowds.

The police confirmed on Thursday that a student of Halu Oleo University in Kendari, North Sulawesi, had died from a wound in his chest after a protest in front of the regional House of Representatives building turned violent earlier in the day. 

"We're still waiting for the autopsy results to determine the cause of death," Adjutant Chief Comr. Harry Goldenhart, a North Sulawesi Police spokesman, said on Thursday as quoted by Antara news agency. 

"The death of a student today shows that police can't guarantee the safety of demonstrators. The authorities must immediately determine the facts of this fatal shooting through a quick, thorough, independent and impartial investigation. The perpetrators of the shooting must be tried in the criminal court," Usman Hamid, Amnesty International Indonesia's executive director, said in a statement.

"There is already plenty of evidence that the police have beaten demonstrators and used excessive force since the protests erupted on 23 September. Although full information about the killing of the student today is not yet fully published, excessive use of violence by the police in demonstrations will only worsen the situation. The priority of the authorities should be to prevent deaths and ensure that they protect the protesters' human rights," Usman said. 

The police said hundreds more students have been injured in four days of protests across Indonesia. The authorities suspected a different group had been trying to hijack the student protests. The group reportedly seeks to turn the protests into violent riots to disrupt Jokowi's inauguration for his second term as president next month.