Cops vow to get tough with Batam protesters

Cops vow to get tough with Batam protesters
Some of the 24 protesters who were detained for unruly behaviour while demonstrating in Batam.

Riau Islands police chief Endjang Sudrajat has reassured investors that strong action will be taken against labour demonstrators in Batam, after workers protesting for higher pay damaged property there.

The police chief said he has asked for military back-up and that his men have no qualms arresting and detaining anyone who breaks the law, for up to 24 hours for interrogation to assess the severity of their actions, before formally arresting them.

He was speaking to reporters after Singapore Consul in Batam Gavin Chay met him at police headquarters yesterday.

Brigadier-General Endjang said the closed-door meeting, lasting more than an hour, focused on the safety of investors and preserving the investment climate in Batam, a key industrial zone.

Singapore is the largest investor in Batam, with more than 400 projects worth US$1 billion (S$1.26 billion), mostly in the manufacturing, electronics and shipyard sectors.

"They are concerned over labour demonstrations that have gone chaotic and anarchic," he said. "We emphasised to the Singapore Consul that we have taken repressive measures to ensure security to counter anarchic acts," he told reporters.

On Monday, police arrested 24 demonstrators who forced their way into the Cammo Industrial Park complex in Batam Centre, housing mostly Singapore companies. "We have 24 hours to interrogate those we have detained," said Brig-Gen Endjang. "We are not taking lightly anyone who causes chaos and breaches the law."

Some 500 officers from Jakarta's mobile brigade have been deployed at the Batam airport. Its access road was blocked by protesters last week. Police are also seeking assistance from the armed forces as mass labour demonstrations resumed last Thursday.

The chaos in Batam is part of a nationwide stand-off between labour unions and employers over higher wages. Mass protests, largely peaceful, are still occurring in Jakarta and other provinces across Java and parts of Sumatra.

National labour unions demanded an initial 50 per cent hike in wages but later scaled this back to 30 per cent after the weakened economic outlook.

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