Daily Archives: June 27, 2020

Civil Society seeks humanitarian response in handling Rohingya crisis


The Coalition of Civil Society Organizations has praised the local people and Government of North Aceh for their initiative and lead in rescuing Rohingya refugees in distress at sea on Thursday (June 25).

It is not the sole responsibility of the local government and community to extend assistance to the 99 Rohingya refugees in Punteut, Lhokseumawe, but others, especially those from the national government too should come forward in this endeavor.

The involvement and coordination of other elements, in particular, the national government, are the pressing need of the hour.

The newly arrived Rohingyas, mostly comprising vulnerable women and children, were shifted to a former immigration office building that earlier served as a temporary refugee shelter.

After being adrift at sea since June 22, they were rescued by local fishermen and brought to land following pressing calls from locals. They were taken to the shelter in the late afternoon from Lancok Village, some 15 kilometers from Lhokseumawe. As part of the COVID-19 health protocols, all underwent rapid testing for which the results came non-reactive.

It is not the first time that Rohingyas had arrived in Indonesia and their arrival numbers have shot up since the 2015 conflict in Myanmar that resulted in several of them fleeing their homes.

With the government initially reluctant to help, the local community took it upon itself to step up efforts and taken the rescue task into its own hands while abiding by the prevailing law on solidarity and helping those in distress. The Acehnese had earlier too taken the lead in supporting Rohingya refugees.

The 36th ASEAN Summit, currently underway, is expected to offer the necessary momentum for ASEAN leaders to urge Myanmar to resolve and put an end to crimes against humanity that continue unabated in the country, based on recommendations of the United Nations and the UN Security Council Resolution, as issued by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.

ASEAN member states must not turn a blind eye to Rohingya refugees whose lives are at risk at sea.

ASEAN member states should prioritize the upholding of human rights, including refugee rights, so that the ASEAN Summit may serve as a summit for collaboration and dialog, not only for economic development but also for the humanitarian crises, democracy, and justice in the Southeast Asian region.

The respect, protection, and fulfillment of human rights, including of refugees, are contained in numerous international conventions, particularly the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

Indonesia, despite not being a party to the 1951 Convention, has ratified the Presidential Regulation No.125 of 2016 on the handling of refugees from overseas that specifically outlines the assistance and management of refugees, including the provision of shelters.

Indonesia has also ratified several international human rights instruments that should be respected and fulfilled.

Hence, the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations recommends the Indonesian government to urgently implement Presidential Regulation No. 125 of 2016 and issue technical regulations and clarifications where necessary to ensure effective coordination for the management and humane treatment of refugees.

While civil society remains committed to supporting humanitarian efforts, full implementation of the regulation is yet to be effusively achieved, especially owing to the lack of clarity and obstacles faced in government budgeting.

In addition, the coalition has encouraged the Indonesian government to immediately become a party to the 1951 Convention by accession, so that it can be more comprehensive and efficient in protecting the rights of refugees in line with the commitments outlined in the international conventions.

“Issue additional technical guidelines, including quarantine mechanisms, tests, and the implementation of physical distancing to ensure the safety and health of the community and the refugees in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a statement.

The government has called on to immediately determine a more adequate shelter for the refugees since the current shelter, which is an unused immigration office, lacks several necessary facilities. The shelter built by NGOs for refugees in North Aceh has been re-used as an in-patient accommodation for COVID-19 patients. All other options should be taken into account, including the shelter facilities in Langsa.

“Provide access to inclusive, sustainable, and efficient solutions for Rohingya refugees, including for men and women to seek a livelihood while in Indonesia,” the statement noted.

The coalition also sought a resolution to the prolonged abuses and denial of rights in Myanmar and engage more proactively with resettlement countries to encourage them to fulfill their commitment to the resettlement of refugees and asylum-seekers in third countries.

“Take into account important lessons from the Rohingya response in Aceh in 2015 where civil society and humanitarian organizations collaborated with the government to fill in much-needed assistance. This is in line with Indonesia’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Compact on Refugees,” the statement noted.


Source: Antara News


C Kalimantan residents warned of importance of rapid test results



Tamiang Layang, C Kalimantan Central Kalimantan’s residents are banned from travelling if results of their rapid tests are reactive and should instead undergo swab tests for confirming the diagnosis of the COVID-19 disease, a local government official stated.

Three residents of Unsum Village in Raren Batuah Sub-district, Barito Timur District, Central Kalimantan Province, failed to follow this binding condition, coordinator of the district’s COVID-19 Prevention and Mitigation Task Force, Simon Biring, stated.

Consequently, the trio were stopped by the Syamsuddin Noor Airport authority in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, on Friday, after one of their rapid test documents were found to have a reactive result, Biring noted here on Saturday.

Biring revealed that the reactive rapid test result was that of a child of a couple, identified as S and P — all residents of Unsum Village.

“They are currently being quarantined in Banjarmasin,” he noted, adding that Barito Timur District Government’s COVID-19 Task Force was monitoring their health condition.

S and P had reached the airport to fly to a city in Java Island along with their child, who would study at a senior high school there. In fact, on Friday, the district’s COVID-19 Task Force had requested the Unsum Health Center to take the child’s swab test.

To thwart the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in communities, Biring has called on locals whose got reactive results in their rapid tests to participate in the COVID-19 Task Force’s preventive efforts by conducting self-quarantine and abstaining from traveling.

“They must undergo swab tests to confirm whether they have tested positive for COVID-19,” he remarked, adding that being diagnosed with the coronavirus disease was in no way a disgrace.

In its place, those testing positive for COVID-19 must be offered immediate assistance before the disease can cause harm to them and others, he emphasized.

Coronavirus infections initially arose in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.

Since then, COVID-19 has spread to over 215 countries and territories, including 34 provinces of Indonesia, with a huge spike in death toll.

The Indonesian government officially confirmed the country’s first cases on March 2 this year. The COVID-19 pandemic is undeniably a huge crisis in human history.

As of June 26, Indonesia has had 51,427 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the government officially announced its first confirmed cases on March 2, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Health as reported by spokesman for COVID-19 handling Achmad Yurianto.

Of the total number of confirmed cases, 21,333 were discharged from hospitals, while 2,683 others succumbed to the deadly virus.





Source: Antara News


On Jakarta anniversary, a ‘present’: pandemic showing signs of slowing



There has been no grand celebration to commemorate Jakarta’s 493rd anniversary this year as the Indonesian capital has been preoccupied with the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, there has been cause for cheer thanks to news of Jakarta finally managing to bring the infection relatively under control. According to a UI report, the effective reproductive number (Rt) for the city has slid to 0.98 in June this year from 4 in March.

“(I have just received) a report from the team of the Public Health Faculty of the University of Indonesia (UI) that shows that during the past two weeks, under the transition period, the outbreak has been brought under control,” Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan remarked during a modest commemoration ceremony at the city hall on June 22, 2020.

Home to a population of around 11 million, Jakarta emerged as the country’s first COVID-19 epicenter, following President Joko Widodo’s announcement of Indonesia’s first confirmed cases on March 2, 2020.

On March 16, prior to the government’s enactment of large-scale social distancing measures, Jakarta recorded its highest Rt of 4, while the threshold is 1, based on the assumption that every 100 people infected with COVID-19 would transmit the disease to 400 others.

On April 10 this year, the figure dropped to 1.5, and currently, it has dipped below one, thanks to the hard work put in by all Jakartans, Baswedan said.

“This is such a present for Jakarta’s people as we celebrate the anniversary, since the pandemic that was rampant is currently being brought under control,” he remarked.

On June 24, 2020, Jakarta added 195 fresh COVID-19 cases, bringing its total count of confirmed cases so far to 10,472.

The capital city registered 112 recoveries and three deaths the previous day, Fify Mulyani, head of Jakarta’s Public Health Office, said.

The metropolitan city has so far registered 5,434 recoveries, while the death toll has been recorded at 631, she noted.

For this year’s anniversary, the provincial government chose the theme of “Jakarta Tangguh” (Tough Jakarta) as it mirrors the eagerness and perseverance of the city’s residents to fight the pandemic.

The atmosphere at celebrations to mark the capital city’s anniversary was definitely different from last year’s Jakarnaval 2019, a traditional arts and culture parade that showcased local and foreign traditional arts performances.

The Jakarnaval 2019 involved around 3,500 artists grouped into 65 contingents, representing Jakarta’s indigenous Betawi community,Yogyakarta, Bima (West Nusa Tenggara), Papua, South Korea, Morocco, India, and China, among others.

“The atmosphere at celebrations for Jakarta’s anniversary has been different this time. Jakarta, Indonesia, and even the world, are facing the COVID-19 pandemic ordeal,” Baswedan noted.

However, he said, COVID-19 is not the first pandemic to have struck Jakarta: the city also witnessed the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918.

“During that time, we had managed to get over it. This city has endured various challenges of disasters and successive ordeals, such as natural disasters, in addition to health, economic, and social crises. However, Jakarta has always been able to deal with them,” he pointed out.

“Now, with the permission of Allah, we will once again unitedly demonstrate that Jakarta can face this grave ordeal head on,” he stated.

The former education and culture minister conceded the fact that development in the city has been delayed, though rescue efforts for residents have been ramped up.

Moreover, with appeals to practice physical distancing, solidarity has also grown, according to Baswedan.

The residents of Jakarta, including health workers, teachers, security officers, religious leaders, and all sections of the society, should unite to help generate a broader understanding among citizens, he stated.

The governor said he believes Jakarta’s residents are disciplined enough to follow the health protocols and break the chain of COVID-19 transmission.

Jakarta imposed Large-Scale Social Distancing (PSBB) measures from April, 2020 until June 3. Starting from June 4 until late June, the capital city has been implementing a transitional PSBB ahead of ushering in the new normal.

During the transitional period, several malls and amusement centers and tourist attractions have been allowed to reopen under stringent health protocols, which prescribe measures such as maintaining physical distance, wearing face masks, washing hands frequently, and spraying disinfectants.

Those are in accordance with the four principles that need to be upheld to ensure the success of the transitional large-scale social distancing measures this month, the Jakarta Governor said.

“There are four principles that must be upheld and remembered in any activity during this period of transition. Insya Allah (God Willing), we would be able to further control the spread of COVID-19 transmission,” he averred.

First, only healthy people must leave home, and those who are unwell must remain at home, he said. Second, during outdoor activities, people must remember to wear masks.

Third, people must follow physical distancing during any activity and any interaction, maintaining a minimum distance of one meter from other people.

Fourth, people must analyze the situation on the ground. If half of a room or space has been filled, they must not enter it, because places are currently allowed to use only 50 percent of their capacity.

“Hence, in the current transition period, it’s better and more important to stay at home because its (COVID-19 pandemic) not over yet. If you really want to go outside, follow the health protocols in a disciplined manner,” he advised.

Baswedan appealed to the people of Jakarta to keep making efforts to win the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and uphold the health and well-being of the capital city’s residents.

“The economy may contract, but our determination is clear: Jakarta will be back on its feet,” he said.



Source: Antara News

Balanced approach needed to battle twin health and economic crises


As its coronavirus case count crosses 50 thousand, Indonesia, which has been battling the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2, 2020, is facing twin crises: a public health emergency and an economic downturn.

As of June 26, 2020, Indonesia has recorded 51,427 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19. Of the total number of confirmed patients, 21,333 have been discharged from hospital, while 2,683 others have succumbed to the deadly virus.

Over the past few months, Jakarta has emerged as the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Indonesia, but now, the trend in Greater Surabaya areas, which include Surabaya City and the districts of Sidoarjo and Gresik, is becoming a cause for concern.

According to the East Java provincial government’s COVID-19 Task Force, Surabaya, the capital of East Java Province, has recorded 4,962 confirmed cases with 1,838 recoveries and 369 deaths as of June 24, 2020.

Meanwhile, Sidoarjo District has recorded 1,287 positive cases, 207 recoveries, and 97 deaths, followed by Gresik District, with 534 confirmed cases, 77 recoveries, and 55 fatalities.

The spread of COVID-19 in those areas should firstly be brought under control, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) advised. An integrated approach is needed to handle the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce the number of cases, he said.

During a visit to Surabaya on Thursday to review the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in East Java, President Jokowi gave the province two weeks to adopt an integrated approach and bring COVID-19 infections under control.

For Indonesia, COVID-19, which initially emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in 2019 and then spread to over 215 countries and territories across the globe, is not merely a public health issue.

The pandemic, which is undeniably a huge crisis in human history, has also crippled the global economy, partly owing to travel restrictions, shut-down of business entities, disruption of supply chains, and border closures.

President Jokowi said he has been apprised of the global economic crisis being a real challenge, and added that several nations have felt its impact amid the ongoing global pandemic.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast that this year, several countries would experience an economic contraction.

The US economy is projected to contract up to minus 8 percent, while the economies of Japan, the UK, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany are expected to decline to -5.8 percent, -10.2 percent, -12.5 percent, -12.8 percent, – 12.8 percent, and -7.5 percent, respectively.

“What does this mean? It means that supply, demand, and production will get disrupted. We must be aware of the fact that while we are handling public health issues, we are still reeling from the other problem, that is, the economy,” President Jokowi remarked.

According to the IMF, “Indonesia’s growth slowed in the first quarter of 2020 to 3 percent y/y (from 5 percent in Q4:2019), or -2.4 percent (q/q), mostly driven by reduced consumption and investment as containment measures were stepped up in late February”.

Indonesia’s rupiah has depreciated by 1.9 percent against the US dollar, while equity prices have dropped by 21 percent, up from a 40-percent decline in late March, according to IMF’s policy tracker, published on its official website.

“The yield on rupiah-denominated 10-year government bonds has increased marginally by 8 bps to 7.1 percent, down from a 132-bps spike in late March,” the IMF revealed.

This has prompted the call for maintaining a balance in pushing the brake and accelerator pedals in managing the public health and economic crises.

According to President Jokowi, the nation cannot push economic matters while ignoring health issues.

On the other hand, it cannot solely focus on health issues and allow the economy to get disrupted, he added.

“I have repeatedly informed regional leaders to push ‘the brake and accelerator pedals’ in a balanced mode. This is now challenging,” he reiterated.

The President has urged the nation to have the mental fortitude to face this reality, as all countries, including Indonesia, are reeling from the public health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The public health and economic crises caused by the pandemic have undoubtedly encumbered several nations.

“The disease has not solely affected Indonesia since it has spread to 215 countries,” President Jokowi noted.

To ensure that the country wins the battle against the pandemic, the President has urged all Indonesians to understand the significance of practicing measures mandated by the healthcare and COVID-19 protocols, including wearing face masks and avoiding crowds.

Hence, people at large must not misinterpret the new normal era as a time for doing away with safety measures, such as wearing face masks while venturing outdoors and practicing physical distancing, which have been implemented to break the chain of COVID-19 transmission. (INE)



Source: Antara News



COVID-19 adding to challenge posed by forest fires

With Indonesia still in the grip of the coronavirus, which is known to cause severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), forest fires and the associated smog could potentially spell a double disaster, suffocating people and animals.

Wildfires are normally known to occur every year on Sumatra and Kalimantan islands during the dry season. They often produce smog that can shroud neighboring countries, particularly Malaysia and Singapore.

This year, the peak dry season is forecast for August and September.

During a limited cabinet meeting chaired by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) in Jakarta on June 23, 2020, Doni Monardo, chief of the Task Force for the Acceleration of COVID-19 Response, cautioned that heavy smoke from forest and land fires, especially peatlands, could adversely impact public health and increase risk of people contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“Heavy smoke can pose a health threat to the community, particularly those ailing from asthma or ARI (acute respiratory infection). The impact could be dangerous for asthma patients when exposed to COVID-19,” Monardo said.

Hence, Jokowi has ordered his ministers to take precautionary steps against forest and land fires, Monardo added.

He stressed the need for closer cooperation between all sections of the community in all regions to mitigate forest and land fires, particularly in fire-prone areas.

“There is a pressing need for hard work and cooperation from all sections of the community in all regions that annually experience significant forest and land fires, especially in the peatland areas,” he stated.

“We (have to) avoid the smoke, so that we can also safeguard ourselves from the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he noted.

While opening the limited meeting on anticipation of forest and land fires, Jokowi reiterated that large sections of Indonesia would experience a dry season in August, 2020.

The head of state elaborated that nearly 17 percent of Indonesia’s territory experienced drought in April, 2020, while 38 percent of other regions reeled under it in May, 2020, and 27 percent of other regions in June 2020.

“Drought will occur in most regions in August. We still have a short preparation period of a month from now on,” the President remarked.

As the nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia also has a major task of taking precautionary measures against land and forest fires, he said.

Jokowi also highlighted the need to use technology to prevent land and forest fires, while monitoring fire-prone areas.

“Management on the field must be coordinated properly. Apply technology to monitor fire-prone areas and to update information,” he remarked.

The President also called for efforts to arrange the management of peat ecosystems in a consistent manner.

Peatland structuring is conducted by maintaining groundwater levels and constructing canal blocks, ponds, and drilling wells.

“We have already applied other wetting technologies, but it must be consistently done,” the President stated.

Meanwhile, during the meeting, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya Bakar said the Indonesian government is anticipating a potential explosion in forest fires, particularly in northern Sumatra, Riau, Aceh, and parts of North Sumatra, as well as Kalimantan.

In fact, the government carried out weather modification to produce rains in several places, such as Riau and other parts of Sumatra, in April and May, to control smoke from wildfires.

There are plans to carry out weather modification again in Kalimantan, she stated. Based on weather analysis, hotspots in Kalimantan will be strong with the onset of the dry season in July. The hotspots will peak in late August to early September.

“Hopefully, this (weather modification) can be a solution. Rather than continuing to extinguish it (forest fire), with this, we can systematically prepare for it,” she said.

In addition to weather modification, the government has also intensified monitoring and control by involving the police and the military to prevent forest fires.

In the meantime, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Mahfud MD, has claimed that Indonesia has successfully minimized forest fires, with no massive fires reported in the country over the past few years.

“In the meeting, we have discussed the situation in 2020, as we are not only dealing with land and forest fires, but also COVID-19. Hence, we have prepared joint measures to anticipate the oncoming dry season,” the minister informed.

Efforts to prevent and mitigate forest fires would need firm law enforcement. Hence, some legal measures have been prepared in anticipation of forest fires this year.

In 2019, six out of eight provinces prone to forest fires declared an emergency as flames flared in their forest areas.

Last year, wildfires scorched nearly 16,000 sq. km of land, mostly on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan. In comparison, fires laid to waste 26,000 sq. km of land in 2015, resulting in one of the worst haze episodes in the country’s history.

During the January-July 2019 period, the Indonesian Environmental Affairs and Forestry Ministry recorded a total of 2,070 hotspots, with confidence rate at over 80 percent.
Meanwhile, through legal enforcement and firm control, the Indonesian government had managed to reduce forest fires across the country by 96.5 percent during the 2015-2017 period.

As per data obtained from NOAA’s satellites, 21,929 hotspots were found across Indonesia in 2015, and the figure dropped to 3,915 in 2016, and to 2,257 in 2017.

Wild fires razed a total of 2,611,411 hectares in 2015, and the figure fell to 438,360 hectares in 2016, and dipped further to 165,464 hectares in 2017.




Source: Antara News