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Jakarta Post

Boltim regent slams ministers for 'stupid' and 'inconsistent' COVID-19 relief policies

  • Ghina Ghaliya
    Ghina Ghaliya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, April 27, 2020   /   07:05 pm
Boltim regent slams ministers for 'stupid' and 'inconsistent' COVID-19 relief policies East Bolaang Mongondow (Boltim) Regent Sehan Salim Landjar. (Tribun Manado/Siti Nurjanah)

East Bolaang Mongondow (Boltim) Regent Sehan Salim Landjar in South Sulawesi is in the spotlight after expressing his disappointment toward President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo administration’s policies and social aid programs.

A video circulating on social media, as posted by a Twitter user @husainabdullah1, shows Sehan complaining about the delay in cash transfers (BLT) as the people listed as beneficiaries are ineligible for the staple food aid program.

“When will they get the money? They still have to open bank accounts and do some paperwork,” Sehan said in the video.

“The country is about to go bankrupt, but the ministers are being ignorant, stupid. I’m really angry," he added, arguing that the central government should allow local administrations to provide cash aid to people under the supervision of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), the police, NGOs and the press.

"Not all regional heads are corrupt. Don’t generalize us like that."

The National Mandate Party (PAN) politician told the press on Sunday that he was going to allocate part of the regional budget to provide staple food packages for those at risk from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nevertheless, Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Minister Abdul Halim Iskandar has said that the village fund could only be used to finance labor-intensive projects.

However, shortly after Halim’s announcement, Home Minister Tito Karnavian ordered district heads to work with subdistrict heads in reallocating their village fund to mitigate the pandemic's effects. Halim then revoked his remark.

Social Affairs Minister Juliari Batubara later issued regulations that prohibited beneficiaries of cash transfers from receiving staple food packages from the government.

“They are inconsistent and we’re confused,” said Sehan.

Read also: Red tape stymies social aid

The regent, however, decided to give staple food packages to the poor, including those who received cash transfers as he worried that the people were starving.

"I have prepared 900 tons of premium rice for the people. I saw those ineligible for the staple food packages crying," Sehan said. "If anyone wants to arrest me, just arrest me. I'm getting stressed out by this situation."

Responding to Sehan, Juliari said on Monday that the regulations were made to avoid the same people receiving different social aid programs and the regulations were only for the social aid programs provided by the central government.

“We allow regional heads to distribute staple food and rice to the people; no one is prohibiting this. What we are regulating is the central administration’s programs. If the regions want to allocate their budget [to people affected by COVID-19], then please do,” Juliari said.

Regarding the delay in cash transfers, Juliari said, the Social Affairs Ministry had only just received data from all the regions, asking regional heads and their residents to be patient.

“We’ll transfer directly to the people who have bank accounts. For those who don’t, they can go to post offices in their areas. We’ve just received the data and we need time to process it," he said.

Sehan was previously in the spotlight for carrying a coffin while raising public awareness about staying home during the pandemic.

"The people of Boltim, please stay at home or you will end up in the hospital or this coffin. There are only three options,” Sehan said as seen in a video posted by @husainabdullah1 on Twitter.