Jakarta – The Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) is urging the government to halt the involvement of the TNI (Indonesian military) in disciplining people for violating Covid-19 health protocols at crowded locations. The presence of TNI members shows that the government intends to handle the Covid-19 pandemic with a security approach.
"YLBHI is asking the government to abolish and cancel the policy of a security approach in handling Covid-19 including plans to involve the TNI is the new normal", said YLBHI Advocacy Division Head M Isnur in a press release on Monday June 1.
Instead of deploying the TNI, Isnur suggests that the government deal with Covid-19 using public health policy guidelines based on science. In this case, according to Isnur, the easing of health quarantines before moving towards the new normal must be done based on data and not just wishes.
Isnur said that referring to an official statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) European regional director, the new normal requires a transition and needs several step which have to be taken beforehand, namely evidence that the spread of Covid-19 is under control, adequate healthcare service capacity, minimising the epidemic in vulnerable places such as old housing, applying measures to prevent the spread in the workplace and involving communities.
"In all of this, there is not a single requirement which includes a security approach", he said.
On the other hand, said Isnur, the TNI's involvement also conflicts with the People's Consultative Assembly's Decree (TAP MPR) which regulates a separation of the TNI and police.
Under the TAP MPR Number VI/2000 on the separation of the TNI and the police it explains that the socio-political role of the Armed Forces (then called ABRI) resulted in deviations in the role and function of the TNI and police. As a consequence, the pillars of democracy in the life of the nation, state and society were unable to grow.
"So restoring the TNI's role in activities in the civilian sphere conflicts with reformasi [the political reform process that began in 1998] and the TAP MPR", said Isnur.
Isnur said that the TNI's involvement will also add to the government tendency to use a security approach. Earlier, the national police issued a telegram on deterrents for people who are deemed to have insulted the president and spread fake news related to the government's handling of Covid-19.
According to Isnur however, this instruction has been pursued in a discriminative way and has targeted people who are critical of the government.
"For example the criminalisation of Kamisan (Thursday) Action participants in Malang [East Java], the criminalisation of [researcher and outspoken government critic] Ravio Patra and most recently the criminalisation of people participating in an action in Pekanbaru [Riau}", he said.
The planned implementation of the new normal in stages has been touted by the government over the last few weeks. On several occasions President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has asked the public to make peace with the corona virus until a vaccine or drug treatment is found.
Widodo then deployed thousands of TNI and police personnel in four provinces and 25 regencies and cities to assist in disciplining the public. The TNI personnel can issue warnings to people who do not obey health protocols such not wearing a mask, not washing their hands or failing to maintain social distancing. (psp/fra)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Pemerintah Diminta tak Perlu Libatkan TNI di New Normal".]