Ban on “mudik” and state defense

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Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak Post-graduate Lecturer in the Ahmad Dahlan Institute of Technology and Business Jakarta

IO – During the Idul Fitri atmosphere in 1976, Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who at that time was with his troops in the struggle in East Timor, sent a letter to his grandfather, Margono Djojohadikusumo. 

“Grandpa, on this Eid day I am not in the family circle. Forgive me for all my mistakes. Greetings from the battlefield. We have more than a month in the mountains. Our task is also quite heavy.” 

Such is the excerpt from Prabowo’s letter published in one of his grandfather’s articles, “Feudalism, New-Feudalism, Aristocracy” in the book “the Indonesian Man” (2001) by a journalist and writer, Mochtar Lubis. 

Reading a letter from the grandson who could not take part in an important feast with his family because of his task in the struggle between life and death defending the country made the founder of the first State Bank of Indonesia (BNI), and one who was also a member of the Indonesian Independence Preparatory Investigation Agency (BPUPKI) sad. He was forced to retire for a few minutes into a private room to calm down. 

Gathering with family, releasing longing with a cheerful atmosphere and forgiving each other after a long separation is a strong spiritual atmosphere in every Eid al-Fitr for Indonesian Muslim communities. 

People are willing to go through a very hard struggle so they can feel it. Take a long journey, traffic jams, crowded in public transportation, to stay overnight at the station and terminal. The threat of accidents on the road that often occurs even not infrequently to the loss of lives does not relax the spirit of being able to be with the family during the days of celebration. 

Therefore, sadness is inevitable if there are family members who cannot come. This is also what happened to Margono, Prabowo and generally those who could not get together with family, of course for various reasons. 

Now almost half a century later, Prabowo, in his authority as Minister of Defense, forbade his staff at the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Indonesia from returning to their hometowns or going home to celebrate Idul Fitri this year. If in the past he could not gather with his family because he was struggling to take up arms for the Nation; now we are not going back to our hometowns for the same reason. According to him, not going back to hometowns is part of the implementation of State Defense in the current context. 

“State Defense” may be defined as the determination, attitude and behavior and actions of citizens, both individually and collectively in maintaining state sovereignty, territorial integrity and safety of the nation and state imbued by his love for the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) based on the Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution, in ensuring the continuity the life of the nation and country from various threats. 

At present we the people of Indonesia, even all citizens of the world are facing threats. A non-military threat, namely, related to the spread of Covid-19. 

As of April 5, 2020, the coronavirus has almost spread to all provinces in Indonesia. Covid-19 patients number 2,273. A total of 198 patients have died and 164 others recovered, while globally, there are 1.2 million cases, 64,787 fatalities and 247,273 recovered. 

To break the chain of the spread of the coronavirus, there is no more practical way than discipline in implementing physical distance, avoiding crowds, and not leaving the house except for very urgent matters. 

Indeed, the challenge to stay at home now is getting heavier, considering that we will soon enter the fasting month and Eid, which is generally taken advantage of by migrants to return home. Even going home has become an annual colossal ritual journey in this country. All the preparations and souvenirs that will be offered to loved ones in the village are usually prepared in advance. The government and other agencies also do not miss preparing infrastructure and other facilities to ensure smoothness and comfort for travelers. 

On the other hand, the desire to go back and forth is also inevitable, because, in the atmosphere of the Covid-19 pandemic, all economic activities have an impact; even many are forced to cease so that massive layoffs occur, so that many of our brothers and sisters have no choice but to go home; but the government is trying to find a formula through social assistance to ensure that all the most economically impacted communities can be helped, while still trying to protect themselves from contracting Covid-19. 

But considering that the Coronavirus is a real threat to the nation now, all of us must contribute to overcoming and stopping its spread. One way is by following President Joko Widodo’s advice not to go home. It’s not easy, but we must make this choice. 

I do not know how many cases of travelers who have been exposed to Corona, making it difficult for families, even their health and the environment are threatened. In Cimahi, West Java, for example, some elderly people were diagnosed Covid-19 positive after their children returned home. Instead of happiness, what happened was even a sad and depressing atmosphere. 

Why returning to hometowns must be banned 

There are at least three main considerations why Muslims and Indonesian people, in general, should not go back to their hometowns at this time. 

First, demographically, the population of villages in Indonesia is mostly senior citizens. The elderly are one of the most vulnerable groups of people exposed to the Coronavirus, especially if they have a pre-existing disease. When most of us decide to go home, without any symptoms at all, then people who are infected without symptoms will unknowingly become carriers of transmission and spread to others; imagine if the returnees become carriers who transmit Covid-19 to our parents in the village. Thus, it will be more widespread and carry a very high potential to cause death, because it infects many elderly people in rural areas. 

Second, health facilities in rural areas are very limited. Similarly, the number of doctors is very small, especially specialists. So, imagine if a massive pandemic occurs in rural areas, even in urban areas with adequate health care facilities and still lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) for doctors and medical personnel, then a very serious disaster must be faced, and will take many lives. 

Third, the village is a food granary. If an epidemic strikes villages, it will also have an impact on food availability because people cannot plant crops. The health crisis will be followed by a food crisis, and the food crisis will have a systemic impact on our resilience and defense as a nation. 

So, discouraging those who have plan to go home is a heroic decision. Not only for the safety of generations but also the good of the nation and state. It is appropriate if not going home is called a real act of defending the country today. 

It is our longing for the safety of all of us, for the good of us as a nation and state, for the survival of Indonesian civilization. If we can do this, in normal conditions we can later pay off all these longings, with better national living conditions, instead of forcing it now but for the last time.