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Jakarta Post

Jakarta secretary Saefullah latest high-ranking official to die of COVID-19

  • Ardila Syakriah
    Ardila Syakriah

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, September 17, 2020   /   09:01 am
Jakarta secretary Saefullah latest high-ranking official to die of COVID-19 Jakarta Governor-elect Anies Baswedan (fourth right) and Deputy Governor-elect Sandiaga Uno (third left) pose alongside acting governor Soni Sumarsono (second left), Jakarta Secretary Saefullah (third right) and members of the Jakarta Regional Council (DPRD), during a handover ceremony at City Hall, Central Jakarta, on Oct. 16, 2017. Jakarta Secretary Saefullah, who has served the capital for over 35 years, died from COVID-19-induced complications on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2020 at the age of 56. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Indonesia has lost yet another senior government official to COVID-19 following the passing of the Jakarta administration's secretary Saefullah, who has spent the last 36 years of his life working for the capital.

Saefullah died at age 56 from irreversible septic shock and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) due to COVID-19 at 12:55 p.m. on Wednesday at the Gatot Subroto Army Hospital (RSPAD) in Central Jakarta.

The COVID-19 transmission led to a severe infection of his lung tissue and his whole bodily system, causing irreversible respiratory failure and inadequate oxygen absorption, according to details from the administration.

"Today, the Jakarta administration lost one of its best leaders [...] Pak Saefullah was a good man, a hard-worker, someone who always prioritized completing the tasks assigned to him," Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan said at Saefullah's wake at Jakarta's City Hall on Wednesday.

Prior to his passing, Saefullah had been on the frontline, day and night, in the city's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Anies said. He even attended meetings with the governor almost every day.

Read also: Indonesia's latest official COVID-19 figures

Anies said that on Monday last week, the secretary had to excuse himself from a plenary session with the Jakarta Legislative Council (DPRD) for the first time, saying that he did not feel well, before he was eventually taken to a hospital a few days later.

The senior city official had previously received treatment at the MMC hospital in South Jakarta since Sept. 8 before he was transferred to the city's COVID-19 referral hospital, Gatot Subroto Hospital, on Sunday. Saefullah was buried with COVID-19 protocols at the Rorotan cemetery in North Jakarta on Wednesday. He is survived by his wife and four children.

"He was the most active in providing supplements to his colleagues so they remained healthy. The person who always thought of other people's well-being, is now laid to rest," Anies said.

Saefullah, a Betawi native, was born in North Jakarta on Feb. 11, 1964. He started serving the city in 1984 as a teacher, before rising to become the deputy head of Jakarta's elementary education agency in 2008 and the head of the city’s sports and youth agency in 2009.

He was Central Jakarta mayor from 2010 to 2014 prior to taking the role of the capital’s regional secretary from 2014, serving under three different governors: current President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, his replacement Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama and current Governor Anies Baswedan.

President Jokowi, formerly Jakarta's governor from 2012 until he was elected president in 2014, conveyed his condolences on Wednesday in a statement issued by a spokesperson, saying that Saefullah had been "a close friend and colleague".

Ahok, who was previously the deputy governor to Jokowi and took over the governorship from 2014 to 2017, also offered his deep condolences on his official Twitter account on Wednesday, saying that Saefullah had been someone who was "diligent and fast in his work".

Home Minister Tito Karnavian expressed his sympathies on Saefullah's passing in a statement, which described the latter as not only a good and hard-working man but also a "role model for ASN [civil servants] at the Jakarta provincial administration".

Read also: Office workers unconvinced of stricter curbs

His passing also marked a loss for Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama; Saefullah had chaired the tanfidziyah (executive board) of its Jakarta branch.

NU secretary-general Helmy Faishal Zaini said Saefullah had always campaigned for religious tolerance, including through deradicalization measures, as well as mainstreaming wasathiyah (moderate Islam).

Saefullah, Helmy said, had been among the few initiators of the first city-owned grand mosque, KH Hasyim Asy'ari Grand Mosque, which is named after the NU founder, in hopes of promoting Islam Nusantara, or Islam of the Archipelago.

It was also evident when the city was embroiled in identity politics following the 2017 Jakarta Gubernatorial election.

"His [consistency] throughout the administrations of Jokowi, Ahok and Anies showed that, even though [they were] quote, unquote in two opposing camps, he was well-versed in positioning himself," he said.

Indonesia has lost a handful of high-ranking officials to COVID-19, among them mayors and regents, according to various reports, as the disease does not differentiate. Others infected include former and current ministers.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo is reportedly infected while former deputy minister Dino Patti Djalal has tested positive for the disease. The latter is currently undergoing intensive treatment in hospital.

Read also: Former deputy foreign minister Dino Patti Djalal tests positive for COVID-19

The Health Ministry reported 3,963 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, a new record high, and 135 new deaths on Wednesday, bringing the tally to a total of 228,993 confirmed cases, 164,101 recoveries and 9,100 deaths.

Jakarta, which has seen its new daily cases reaching over 1,000 lately and hospital beds almost fully occupied, has reimposed the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) starting on Monday for at least two weeks.

Anies also said the administration would close down a building at the City Hall complex for three days starting on Thursday, after at least two of its workers – one of them in middle management – tested positive, while the others were still awaiting their test results. This protocol follows the city's PSBB regulation.

"I've always said to never see COVID-19 deaths merely as statistics and percentages. These are human beings; the husbands, wives, children and fathers to someone," he said.

"I hope that all Jakartans can see this as a lesson that the situation has truly become worrying [...] The situation is not one to be underestimated. Someone who's been on the front line, who always followed the protocols and reminded others to do so, has faced the biggest risk of it [that is death]," Anies said.