Jakarta – Many volunteers with the COVID-19 task force have resigned following the task force's controversial donation of 20,000 masks for the wedding of the daughter of controversial Islam Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab.
One of the volunteers, Abdul Mufid, claimed that around 2,000 volunteers in the Greater Jakarta area had decided to quit the task force.
Twenty volunteers staged a protest on Thursday, removing their vests and ID cards outside the volunteer's headquarters in The Media and Towers Hotel in Central Jakarta.
Abdul said the task force's decision to provide face masks and hand sanitizer for attendees could be seen as a move to support a mass gathering. The action had hurt the feelings of volunteers, Abdul added, and seemed to contradict their efforts to curb COVID-19 transmission.
"The mask donation has shattered our efforts [to curb the transmission] during the past eight months. The task force should have dispersed the masses instead of giving them masks in bulk," said Abdul, as quoted by kompas.com.
"[Volunteers] are still committed to the fight against COVID-19, but we don't trust the task force anymore. We'll continue our work outside," he continued.
The COVID-19 task force's chief of volunteer coordination, Andre Rahadian, said he understood the volunteers' decision and their feelings of disappointment.
"We accept [the resignation] as a form of aspiration," he said in a written statement on Thursday. "We believe they are volunteers at heart, and we hope that they will continue their work, even though they no longer are part of the task force".
Responding to the volunteers' resignation, COVID-19 task force chief Doni Monardo said that any problem should not lead to an emotional response, since "tackling the pandemic needs patience, sacrifice and collaboration between all stakeholders," he said.
However, Doni said the task force could not stop those who wished to resign.
"Volunteer work is a matter of conscience. If people are not willing to do it, we can't force them. I send my gratitude to all the volunteers, who have worked their hardest," he said.
Addressing the task force's decision to give out face masks and hand sanitizer during Rizieq's event, Doni claimed that the initiative was meant to enforce health rules among the public.
"Once again, I apologize if the steps we've taken have displeased many people," he said. (aly)