Indonesians, Police Clash Over New Labor Laws

From Associated Press

Workers threw rocks outside the presidential palace in this capital Wednesday and protests broke out in three other cities as Indonesians demonstrated against new labor laws.

Police fired warning shots to disperse about 3,000 protesters and they set up roadblocks on the outskirts of Surabaya, a bustling port and industrial center that is Indonesia's second-largest city.

In a separate protest there, 3,000 workers threw rocks at police, who fired tear gas. Seven demonstrators were arrested. One person was hospitalized with stomach wounds, medical officials said.

The protests--demanding the end of laws making it easier to fire employees--came as President Abdurrahman Wahid, who faces removal proceedings in August, swore in his new economic team.

It was his second major Cabinet change in 11 days, aimed at fixing strained relations with the International Monetary Fund and rebuilding support ahead of the August proceedings.

In Jakarta, demonstrators threw rocks and chunks of wood at police protecting the presidential palace.

In the Javanese city of Bandung, about 10,000 workers threw rocks at the local legislature and set fire to 18 cars and 11 motorcycles, police Lt. Col. Bagus Kurniawan said.

About 1,000 workers held a peaceful rally in the town of Lubuk Pakam, about 900 miles northwest of Jakarta on Sumatra island, police said.

Indonesia has been hit by a wave of labor unrest recently as unions flex their muscles after decades of repression under former dictator Suharto, who was forced from office in 1998. Meanwhile, Wahid's attorney general, Baharuddin Lopa, announced that he was launching investigations into corruption allegations against several lawmakers who are leading the drive to have Wahid thrown out of office.

Lopa said he planned to question parliamentary speaker Akbar Tanjung, who heads the Golkar Party, the nation's second-largest, and Arifin Panigoro, a top official of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, which is headed by Wahid's main rival, Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

He said they would be questioned before Indonesia's national assembly convenes in August to judge corruption allegations against Wahid.

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