Ghina Ghaliya, Jakarta – The police's response to a video of 49 Chinese workers arriving in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, despite the government's travel ban to and from China in an effort to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading, has been condemned.
The workers' arrival in Kendari caused public outrage on Sunday after an amateur video circulated on social media. The video was uploaded by SA, a South Konawe regency resident, who witnessed their arrival at Haluoleo Airport, Kendari.
Southeast Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Merdisyam initially claimed that the workers had arrived in Kendari after extending their visas in Jakarta.
However, it turned out that they were new Chinese workers who were due to work in Konawe district, Southeast Sulawesi. They came from Henan province and had previously transited and quarantined in Bangkok for 14 days before continuing their trip to Indonesia, according to the Immigration Office.
The police arrested SA and made him apologize to the public through a video on social media for inciting hatred, which fueled even more public anger.
A hashtag #CopotKapoldaSultra (dismiss Southeast Sulawesi Police chief) began to trend on Twitter on Tuesday even though Merdisyam has apologized regarding the misinformation.
The House of Representatives called on National Police chief Gen. Idham Azis to evaluate the entire Southeast Sulawesi Police following the incident.
House's Commission III overseeing legal affairs will summon Idham and Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly soon after the recess. The House is in recess from Feb. 28 through March 23.
"I monitored the fiasco regarding the arrival of 49 Chinese workers in Kendari closely. Misinformation like this is unnecessary amid the government's efforts to handle the coronavirus," the chairman of Commission III Herman Herry said in a written statement on Wednesday.
The ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician said the National Police chief must strengthen coordination with immigration offices throughout the country to prevent similar incidents from happening.
Deputy chairman of Commission III Mulfachri Harahap said a meeting with Idham and Yasonna would be the first item on the agenda after the recess.
The National Mandate Party (PAN) politician said the government, including the police, should be serious in responding to the pandemic by monitoring foreign arrivals. "Please, don't underestimate this pandemic," he said.
The Immigration Office said on Tuesday that the Chinese workers had been granted health certificates from the Thai government to prove that they were free from the virus. They also had undergone medical screening for COVID-19 symptoms and filled in the mandatory Health Alert Card (HAC) at Soekarno Hatta International Airport before continuing their trip to Haluoleo Airport.
However, Law and Human Rights Minister regulation No. 7/2020 on visas and residence permits amid efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus stipulates that foreign workers entering Indonesia must be quarantined for 14 days.
Indonesia Police Watch (IPW) chairman Neta S. Pane urged Idham to immediately dismiss Merdisyam as he had lied to the public and violated the 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law.
"This incident can undermine public trust not only in the National Police but also in President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's administration, "he said.