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Jakarta Post

Following Rizieq's crowded events, Jakarta urged to curb mass gatherings amid fears of COVID-19 case spike

  • Rizki Fachriansyah
    Rizki Fachriansyah

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, November 16, 2020   /   06:35 pm
Following Rizieq's crowded events, Jakarta urged to curb mass gatherings amid fears of COVID-19 case spike Thousands of people welcome firebrand cleric and leader of Islam Defenders Front (FPI) Rizieq Shihab at Puncak, Bogor regency, West Java on Nov. 13, 2020. (Antara/Arif Firmansyah)

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD has called on the Jakarta administration to further enforce existing health protocols amid concerns of a possible spike in COVID-19 cases, especially in the wake of controversial mass gatherings held by the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) over the weekend.

Mahfud said the government was particularly dismayed by reported violations of the physical distancing rule among the thousands of guests attending the public wedding of firebrand cleric and FPI leader Rizieq Shihab’s daughter in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta on Saturday.

He claimed the government had already instructed Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan to ensure public adherence to COVID-19 protocols among the guests ahead of the wedding.

“The government actually reminded the Jakarta governor to ask the event organizers to ensure compliance with the health protocols,” Mahfud said in a press conference on Monday.

“The enforcement of health protocols in Jakarta is the responsibility of the capital city’s administration, in accordance with the power hierarchy and the law.” 

He went on to say that large crowds would only increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission among the public, therefore nullifying the concerted pandemic mitigation efforts over the past eight months.

Those who deliberately congregate in large numbers while also disregarding health protocols act as “potential murderers” of vulnerable groups, Mahfud said. 

“Public and religious figures are expected to set an example and serve as role models so that people will adhere to health protocols,” he said. 

Responding to the central government’s statement, Anies said his administration through the Central Jakarta Mayor’s Office had already reminded the event organizers to implement the physical distancing protocol during the public wedding, which also served to commemorate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.

“Once we received word of the event, we proactively reminded [the event organizers] of the existing rules,” Anies said, claiming that his office would take immediate action against those found to have violated health protocols. 

Rizieq, who returned to Indonesia last Tuesday following roughly three years of self-exile in Saudi Arabia, has once again found himself the subject of a controversy, with critics slamming his cavalier attitude toward physical distancing measures. 

The Jakarta Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) slapped the firebrand cleric with a Rp 50 million (US$3,536) fine after finding him guilty of disregarding COVID-19 health protocols by not limiting the number of guests attending his daughter’s wedding on Saturday.

Rizieq’s son-in-law, Hanif Alatas, claimed that his family had paid the fine. 

On the day of Rizieq’s arrival, thousands of his supporters – including FPI members – marched to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten, to welcome him, causing severe congestion on the road to the airport. Similar mass gatherings also swarmed the Puncak area in Ciawi, Bogor regency in West Java during his visit to a local Islamic boarding school on Nov. 13.

The 212 Alumni Brotherhood, a hardline Islamic group closely associated with the FPI, previously announced that it would stage another mass reunion at the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta on Dec. 2, stoking fears of a new COVID-19 infection cluster in the capital. 

Jakarta Deputy Governor Ahmad Riza Patria claimed his office had yet to receive any event proposals from the group, while also noting that Monas would remain closed for the remainder of the current transitional period of large-scale social restrictions (PSBB).

“To this day, we have yet to receive any letters or proposals, and it’s worth noting that [holding a mass event] at Monas is still not possible,” Ahmad said, as quoted by Kompas TV.