Dian Erika Nugraheny, Jakarta – Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) advocacy division head Muhammad Isnur says that the government often tends to blame the public for its poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Isnur, this tendency is an effort on the part of the government to cover up its poor leadership and handling of the pandemic.
"We've found that there is a kind of tendency and a kind of pattern with the government, as the old saying goes, a poor workman blames his tools (buruk muka cermin dibelah)", said Isnur during a virtual press conference titled "Protecting People's Right to Health and the Safety of Whistle Blowers" which was held on Monday January 25.
"So leadership and management in dealing with the pandemic has been poor, but the public gets blamed", he continued.
Isnur is of the view that this attitude by the government has been consistent. He gave as an example how on several occasions the government has made statements about taking legal action against people who don't obey health protocols.
In addition to this, the government has still not issued a government regulation on handling the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet Law Number 6/2018 on Health Quarantine already exists.
"In handling the pandemic issuing this government regulation is obligatory. How to handle the pandemic? What tracing is, what kind of treatment? The pandemic has been going on for a year and almost three years since the law, but no government regulation has been issued", said Isnur.
"Our situation in handling the pandemic is like this. But the public are blamed for not social distancing and so forth. This is actually a reflection of their ineptitude in dealing with the pandemic", he asserted.
Another example, continued Isnur, was Indonesian Police Chief Telegram Number ST/1100/IV/HUK.7.1./2020 which was signed by Criminal investigations Directorate head Commissioner General Listyo Sigit Prabowo on April 4, 2020.
Based on this telegram, members of the public who insult President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo or other government officials over their handling of Covid-19 on social media are subject to criminal prosecution.
"Because many people criticised the president over the handling of the pandemic, they were then threatened by reviving this article", said Isnur, referring to articles in the Criminal Code on insulting the president where were struck down by the Constitutional Court in 2006.
Isnur also suggested that the government be open to accommodating suggestions and public criticism. It would be better if the government accept criticism as input on how to deal with the pandemic.
"Consider these reports as input. Address them properly. Why are we making demands on the government? Because the government has an obligation [to protect people's health]", said Isnur.
"Under the Healthcare Law, the obligation to convey information, serve the public and so forth lies with the government", he added.
Earlier, President Widodo claimed that the government has taken extraordinary measures in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Widodo made the remark when opening the 3rd Islamic Students Association Alumni Corps (KAHMI) national coordinating meeting which was held virtually on Friday January 15.
"Over the last 10 months the government has taken initiatives, endeavored to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic through extraordinary measures", said Widodo.
Widodo said that efforts to deal with the pandemic have not just focused on the healthcare sector, but also the economy.
For example, the government has provided social protection for vulnerable and poor social groups, supported micro-, small- and medium-enterprises (UMKM) so they can survive.
The government, said Widodo, also tried to ensure there were no more job losses. "Of course we don't just want to come out of this crisis, but want to make many big leaps forward although it's in a crisis situation", he said.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "YLBHI: Penanganan Pandemi Buruk, tetapi Masyarakat yang Kerap Disalahkan".]