Budi Sutrisno, Jakarta – Jakarta has officially got a new deputy governor with Gerindra Party politician Ahmad Riza Patria inaugurated on Wednesday, as the capital city struggles to contain the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken a heavy toll on public health and the economy.
Riza took an oath to serve in the long-vacant position at a ceremony presided over by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo at the State Palace, which was attended by only a few guests in compliance with physical distancing protocols.
Those present, including Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan and Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, all wore masks and were asked to keep their distance.
Riza's appointment comes after Jakarta, Indonesia's economic center, imposed large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) to curb the spread of the contagious virus that has crippled the economy and brought the city to a halt.
Residents have been told to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel, with schools, public places and offices closed and public transportation services limited.
Only businesses operating in the financial, fuel, food, medicine, retail, water, communications and logistics sectors are exempted from the 14-day restrictions.
The partial lockdown has been imposed since Friday last week and is set to remain in place until April 24.
Speaking after the ceremony, Riza said he hoped he could help Anies address the complex set of challenges facing the city.
"We hope this issue [the COVID-19 outbreak] can be resolved properly. I hope I can help the governor deal with COVID-19. I have promised the President I will diligently carry out my duties as deputy governor," Riza said.
Jakarta has been the region hardest hit by COVID-19 in the country, with 2,474 positive confirmed cases reported, nearly half of the official nationwide tally of 5,136 confirmed cases, as of Wednesday.
The capital has also reported the most deaths from the disease, with 242 fatalities out of the country's official death toll of 469.
Riza said he would begin work Thursday, and would meet with Anies and administration officials to be given an introduction to the city's programs.
"I have met with the governor, who explained the situation concerning the coronavirus. We will work together to implement the PSBB," he said.
The seat of deputy governor had remained vacant for more than a year after Gerindra politician Sandiaga Uno resigned in August 2018 to become the running mate of the party's chairman, Prabowo Subianto, in the 2019 presidential election.
Riza was elected as the Jakarta deputy governor for the remainder of the 2017-2022 term after securing 81 votes from the City Council on April 6, beating Nurmansyah Lubis, a contender from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), who gained 17 votes.
Jakarta Council speaker Prasetyo Edi Marsudi said he hoped Riza could help Anies to support the poor and vulnerable residents of the capital, who had been hardest hit by the pandemic.
"Please oversee the distribution of social aid. Also, I ask that the quality of cloth masks in aid packages given to the residents be improved in accordance with World Health Organization standards," he said.