Jakarta – The government has redoubled its efforts to ensure that regional administrations enforce COVID-19 restrictions after a number of violations occurred at a series of mass gatherings last week.
Home Minister Tito Karnavian issued a decree on Wednesday instructing regional leaders to enforce health protocols as a follow up to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's statement on pandemic mitigation on Monday.
"In relation to the series of mass gatherings that have taken place recently in several regions and the apparent shortcomings in handling such events, I've issued a Home Ministerial Decree on health protocol enforcement," Tito said during a meeting of House of Representatives Commission II overseeing home affairs on Wednesday.
He urged regional leaders to be consistent in their enforcement of health protocols. The minister stressed that it was even more crucial for regional administrations to take preemptive measures by preventing public events that could attract large crowds.
"I want regional leaders to set an example of compliance by not joining mass gatherings that could potentially violate health protocols, for instance," Tito said.
Citing the newly-issued instruction, Tito warned that governors, mayors and regents found to have been lenient on breaches of COVID-19 protocols would face tough sanctions, including potential dismissal from office.
Failures to adhere to the decree would be regarded as violations of Law No. 23/2014 on regional autonomy, he said, which stipulates that regional leaders can be removed from their positions if they fail to carry out their responsibilities in accordance with the law.
"I call on governors, regents and mayors to abide by the decree, because any violations of the law could [result in] dismissal," he said as quoted by tempo.co.
Earlier this week, the government issued firm statements on the enforcement of COVID-19 protocols after a series of mass gatherings centered around the return of Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab from self-exile in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 10.
The controversial cleric stirred controversy by allowing his supporters to stage a massive homecoming event, which saw thousands flock to the streets around Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, and Petamburan in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, where the FPI headquarters is located.
Thousands of people also gathered in Puncak, Bogor, West Java, where Rizieq attended an event on Friday. He later drew ire on social media after attracting huge crowds during a commemoration of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday and the wedding of his daughter in Tanah Abang over the weekend.
President Jokowi has expressed his anger about the mass gatherings and has called on regional leaders to step up their enforcement of COVID-19 social-distancing rules.
"Public safety should be the ultimate priority. For this pandemic we have decided on social-distancing rules and these include dispersing crowds," Jokowi said on Monday.
On the evening of Rizieq's return, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan met with the FPI leader at the latter's home, reportedly to "catch up" with the controversial cleric.
Anies – the first and only high-profile public official known to have welcomed Rizieq upon his return – was summoned by the Jakarta Police on Tuesday to answer questions about the public gatherings that took place at the FPI headquarters over the weekend.
The police also summoned West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil on Friday to seek clarification about alleged violations of physical distancing rules during a mass homecoming event for Rizieq in Puncak, kompas.com reported. (rfa)