A HANDFUL of protesters marking May Day in Jakarta on Monday proceeded to burn flower boards left by supporters for defeated governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.
Having lost the gubernatorial race to Anies Baswedan in April, Ahok was greeted last Friday at city hall by a thousands of well-wishers and more than 3,000 karangan bunga or flower boards thanking him for his service.
So numerous were the wreaths left for the governor that some were moved onto the street adjacent to city hall and to the national monument known as Monas. On Monday, however, a group of trade unionists pulled several wreaths into the street and set them alight.
MayDay MayDay… Hari Buruh kok malah merusak Karangan Bunga di Balai Kota ? Ada yg kasih Instruksi ? pic.twitter.com/MAVtzjVoAM
— Toleransi (@LenteraAsa) May 1, 2017
Trade unions have long opposed Ahok because they claim the Jakarta minimum wage set by his administration, at 3.3 million Indonesian Rupiah (USD $246.82) is too low to live in the capital.
Speaking to a crowd of demonstrators on Monday, Confederation of Indonesian Workers Unions (KSPI) President Said Iqbal said wages in Indonesia were very low compared with ASEAN neighbours such as Malaysia and Vietnam, reported the BBC.
In August last year, Said told reporters at Pasar Ikan that should the incumbent have been victorious in the gubernatorial election, “millions of workers will strike as a form of our opposition to Ahok, who does not deserve to lead Jakarta.”
Pasar Ikan is one of many slum neighbourhoods in Jakarta that was forcibly evicted under the Ahok administration to alleviate flooding and make way for development.
The KSPI even joined hardline Islamists on the streets in previous mass demonstrations against the governor, the latter calling for his arrest and imprisonment for alleged blasphemy.
One netizen tweeted on Monday: “Jakarta today – a handful of people trying to tarnish the labour struggle … this is shameful.”
— StephanieTangkilisan (@stephtangk) May 1, 2017
Apart than the incident, however, May Day was otherwise peaceful in the capital.
— Maesy Angelina (@maesy_ang) May 1, 2017
Jakarta MayDay 2017 pic.twitter.com/6vIV8anSX9
— Urip Sejati (@UripSejati) May 1, 2017
At least protester turned out with a rainbow flag symbolising the LGBTQI community. The Indonesian Federation of Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Transexual and Intersexual communities, Arus Pelangi, tweeted that “the right to security of employment, the right to be free from discrimination, the right to freedom of assembly are equally violated [among all workers].”
— Arus Pelangi (@aruspelangi) May 1, 2017
— Wulan (@csi_wulan) May 1, 2017
Indonesian trade unions are surprisingly vocal and militant in a country where promoting Marxist ideals or communism are illegal. An estimated 500,000 to a million alleged communists were massacred in 1965-66, ushering in the military dictatorship of Suharto.
Since the fall of Suharto in 1998, unions have flourished as Indonesia consolidates its democracy. In recent years, workers’ unions have gained considerable strength and numbers, becoming increasingly successful in pushing for wage hikes and better conditions.