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Methods used to 'dodge' travel quarantine; from special letters to bribery

Tempo - December 20, 2021

Tempo Magazine, Jakarta – The latest in-depth report from the Tempo Magazine team looks into the three main methods committed by state officials and public figures in working around the mandatory quarantine imposed on travelers arriving from overseas.

Tempo found the three modus operandi consists of specific memos from the Covid-19 task force, escaping quarantine facilities through bribery, up to hiring a 'quarantine jockey.'

In terms of memo, Tempo discovered a letter dated October 10, 2021, signed by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head of legal, organization, and partnership Zahermann Muabezi.

The memo listed 16 House of Representatives (DPR) members under the inter-parliamentary cooperation body (BKASP) entourage and its message to ease the quarantine process for those mentioned in it. Three leaders of the BKSAP are Fadli Zon, Putu Supadma Rudana, and Mardani Ali Sera, and one DPR member Primus Yustiso.

In the memo, Zahermann states that the group that had visited Turkey will arrive in Jakarta on October 14-24 which reads and blatantly recommends the men who had just traveled overseas to self-quarantine as they arrive in Indonesia.

All three men, Fadli, Putu, and Mardani did not respond to Tempo's request for an interview, however Primus confirmed the visit to Turkey and exemption from quarantine in an appointed public facility.

"We were able to self-quarantine after taking PCR swab tests," said Primus as cited from the latest Tempo Magazine edition.

The BNPB memo stated that the self-quarantine recommendation adheres to the circular issued by the head of the Covid-19 task force No. 18/2021 along with its two addendums. However, none of the three circulars mentions self-quarantine recommendations for parliament members nor state officials. The official circular only grants dispensation for foreign representatives and family members who are on duty in Indonesia.

BNPB head Suharyanto said to Tempo that he is not aware of such a memo that withholds officials from public quarantine. "It is the first time I heard about such a memo," said Suharyanto. The memo was signed by the BNPB head under Ganip Warsito.

The quarantine protocol dispensation emerged in public after DPR member Raden Wulansari, who is popularly known by her stage name as a singer Mulan Jameela, had allegedly visited a mall in South Jakarta even though she was subjected to a 10-day quarantine after arriving from Turkey. However, her lawyer Ali Lubis denies that his client violated quarantine rules.

After the "special treatment" for officials garnered the public attention, and protest, the Covid-19 task force on Tuesday, December 14, issued it Circular No. 25/2021 on health protocols for international travel amidst the Covid-19 pandemic which gave a clear explanation on the special treatment for officials at the echelon 1 level and above who return from traveling overseas. This caused criticism to come from a number of epidemiologists that deem the rule discriminatory.

Not only are state officials subjected to the health quarantine evasion fiasco, two other officials along with a hotel entrepreneur revealed that 'shady deals' to evade quarantine often happens between international travelers and airport officials under a certain amount of tariff.

Tempo's investigation visited the Tangerang District Court official website, where the Soekarno-Hatta Airport is located at, which shows at least 23 people found guilty of violating quarantine rules. 11 of them were people who traveled from abroad while the rest were accomplices.

The first case of quarantine evasion was handled by the police in April where seven passengers of a chartered aircraft from India – with one Indonesian national – had bribed two airport officials claiming to be from the Jakarta Tourism Agency as they landed at Soekarno-Hatta. The latest case that attracted public interest involves a local social media popularity Rachel Vennya Roland.

Epidemiologist from the University of Indonesia, Pandu Riono, says that evasive attempts proves many people underestimate and do not understand the purpose of quarantine, namely preventing new Covid-19 variants from entering Indonesia. He also criticized the home self-quarantine dispensation overseen by the COvid-19 task force.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1541199/methods-used-to-dodge-travel-quarantine-from-special-letters-to-briber