The Jakarta Post
It might be a little too late, but President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s recent fury at his aides for their sluggish response to the COVID-19 crisis should be appreciated. In video footage of a Cabinet meeting on June 18, but only released on Sunday, the President lashed out at his ministers for the absence of a “sense of crisis” in their actions, resulting in no significant progress in their pandemic response.
At the very least, Jokowi’s resentment channeled the public frustration at the ineffective policies during two months of large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), following which the country is still enduring a surge in cases and deaths nationwide.
Jakarta and West Java may have controlled the spread of the virus, but East Java, South Sulawesi and East Kalimantan have become new epicenters of the outbreak.
Few provinces, cities or regencies wish to extend the PSBB, on the basis that people are losing income. But returning to the kind of life before the pandemic will only put people’s lives at risk.
We also demand what the President seeks: a significant improvement in the coronavirus response, especially in the protection of health workers and people’s jobs.
The lingering question is why Jokowi only let the public learn of his anger after 10 days. The public, as well as experts, have criticized the way his ministers, especially Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto, have handled the biggest public health crisis of our time from the very beginning.
Jokowi backed his administration all the time and did nothing when Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi allowed certain groups of people to travel while the country was enforcing a nationwide ban on the mudik (Idul Fitri exodus).
The PSBB, or partial lockdown, is almost over and there is not even a hint that Jokowi or the central government wants to re-implement the curbs if the crisis worsens in a region.
The release of the video footage coincided with the strain in the relationship between Jokowi and his largest supporting party the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) after the President refused to support the Pancasila ideology bill it tabled at the House of Representatives.
The PDI-P is also reportedly holding back on its support for Jokowi’s son Gibran Rakabuming Raka, who is bidding to contest Surakarta election, while son-in-law Bobby Nasution is seeking a ticket for the Medan mayoral race.
Social aid distribution, which falls under the supervision of Social Affairs Minister Juliari Batubara, a PDI-P politician, was among the problems that Jokowi criticized during the Cabinet meeting.
Jokowi is known for a pragmatism that has become his personal political hallmark. He has frequently rewarded his political allies and supporters with seats in the government or state-owned enterprises. In his first term, Jokowi gave even the smallest parties ministerial seats for supporting him, only to replace them with stronger or more strategic allies as his tenure progressed.
It has been eight months since he announced his current Cabinet lineup. Perhaps, all he wants is just a change of perspective. We hope that, whether he does reshuffle his Cabinet or not, people will feel the heat and work harder