Jakarta – The National Police are set to press criminal charges against those who continue to hold mass gatherings after being warned against doing so amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. M. Iqbal said people who persisted to gather in large numbers could be punished by up to 12 months' imprisonment or fined up to Rp 900,000 (US$56.25). Those charges, he said, were stipulated in articles 212, 216 and 218 of the Criminal Code (KUHP).
"If people do not listen to our warnings, our officers will press charges based on prevailing laws," Iqbal said during a press conference on Monday. "We have to do this since public health is our top priority at the moment."
According to the KUHP, those who violently defy state officers, including the police, face up to one year and four months' imprisonment or a fine of up to Rp 450,000. The law also states that people who continue to gather after three warnings by law enforcement officers face up to four months and two weeks' imprisonment or a fine of up to Rp 900,000.
Iqbal said the police had deployed 460,000 personnel to disperse mass gatherings across the country. However, he said police officers would not charge anyone without warning them first.
"If they don't listen to us, we will take further action," he added. "We have ended many mass gatherings, including several wedding receptions, over the past few days and we haven't encountered any rejections from the public when performing such actions."
National Police chief Gen. Idham Azis issued an edict on Friday banning mass gatherings in both public places and on private property, following President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's instruction for all people to work, study and worship from home in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
As of Tuesday morning, Indonesia has reported 686 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 55 deaths.(glh)