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Jakarta Post

Councilors defer selection of Anies’ deputy governor until after COVID-19 emergency

  • Sausan Atika

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, March 26, 2020   /   08:13 pm
Councilors defer selection of Anies’ deputy governor until after COVID-19 emergency Gerindra Jakarta executive board chairman Mohamad Taufik (‘right’) and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) faction head at City Council Muhammad Arifin (‘left’) pose with Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan as they hand over the list of candidates for the vacant deputy governor post at City Hall on Jan. 21. ( Sari)

The Jakarta Council has agreed to defer the search for Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan’s deputy governor until April 6, after the city’s COVID-19 state of emergency is set to end.

Anies has declared a state of emergency in the capital until April 2 in an effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the policy can be extended depending on the situation.

“We [the councilors] agreed to reschedule the plenary meeting [for the selection of the deputy governor] to April 6, right after the end of the capital’s state of emergency,” Farazandi, the council’s selection committee chairman and a member of the National Mandate Party (PAN), said on Thursday.

He was referring to a plenary meeting that is expected to consist of a confirmation hearing and a vote to choose between Gerindra Party politician Ahmad Riza Patria and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician Nurmansyah Lubis to be Anies’ second-in-command.

Fazarandi said that having a deputy governor remained essential to help Anies handle the devastating COVID-19 outbreak in the capital even after the status was lifted.

“We hope the governor is always healthy, but surely he will need a backup,” he said. “[Selecting a deputy governor] will be a contribution that the counselors can make for now."

The councilors plan to hold the plenary meeting in April despite the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) having extended Indonesia’s COVID-19 emergency disaster status until May 29 to contain the spread of the virus.

Read also: It's a non-emergency emergency, BNPB says regarding COVID-19 pandemic

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo himself has urged everyone to stay at home.

Farazandi said the committee had ensured that COVID-19 precautionary measures would be properly implemented at the meeting, including body temperature scans and the use of disinfectant. It has also decided to limit the meeting to two hours only.

The Jakarta City Council initially planned to hold the confirmation hearing on Monday. Council speaker Prasetyo Edi Marsudi said on March 20 that the hearing would be delayed until further notice as a result of the coronavirus.

The deputy governor's seat has been left vacant for more than a year since the former deputy governor, Gerindra Party politician Sandiaga Uno, resigned in August 2018 to become the running mate of then-presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto in the 2019 election.

Read also: Jakarta’s long search for deputy governor postponed over COVID-19 fears

After the emergence of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, the feasibility of holding the plenary meeting has come into question as the central government and the city administration have advised against large-scale meetings to prevent wider transmission of the coronavirus.

As of Thursday, Indonesia had reported 790 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 58 fatalities. The capital city itself had 472 cases with 43 deaths, making it the country’s COVID-19 epicenter.

The Jakarta administration has promoted physical distancing by closing schools, tourism destinations and entertainment venues in the capital, as well as by urging corporations to allow their employees to work remotely until April 5. Jakarta civil servants are now allowed to work from home, including those working at City Council.

Titi Anggraini, the director of the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem), an election watchdog, criticized the councilors for using the outbreak as a justification "to speed up" the plenary meeting.

“As if the coronavirus situation legitimizes their sluggish performance over the past months. Now the people are the ones impacted,” she said.

She said that good governance must be upheld, calling on Jakarta City Council to start the confirmation hearing only after the outbreak is completely over to allow the standard process to take place.