DPD must be swift to address COVID-19 impact

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Chairman of Committee I of DPD RI from the Aceh Electoral Region, Fachrul Razi. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – Committee I of the Regional Representative Council (Dewan Perwakilan Daerah Republic Indonesia – “DPD RI”) held a Public Hearing with a number of experts, including Prof. Dr. Djohermansyah Djohan, Lecturer of the Institute for the Governance of Home Affairs (Institut Pemerintahan Dalam Negeri – “IPDN”) and Dr. Siti Zuhro, Research Professor of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia – “LIPI”) in Jakarta on Thursday, 23 April 2020. The Hearing discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Regional Government, Village Government, and the upcoming Simultaneous Regional Elections. 

The RDPU, chaired by the Deputy Speaker of Committee I of the DPD RI from the Voting Region of Aceh, Fachrul Razi, was attended by members of Committee I, including the Chairman of Committee I Agustin Teras Narang and Deputy Chairman Abdul Kholik. Both Djohermansyah and Siti Zuhro agreed that DPD RI must respond more meaningfully to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the regions than the House of Representatives (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) of RI. The two scholars requested DPD RI to be supportive when Regional Governments show signs of being overwhelmed in dealing with the unfamiliar challenges posed by the pandemic. They agreed that Committee I of the DPD RI should pay closer attention to issues relating to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Regional Government, especially the importance of strengthening coordination and synergy between Central Governments, Governors, and Regents and Mayors. “Cut through bureaucratic red tape and discussions in this COVID-19 pandemic, especially among the Regional Governments. DPD RI should remind them (Regional Governments) of the urgency to act decisively,” declared Djohermansyah. 

Fachrul Razi notes that Governors, Regents, and Mayors are the true decision-makers in any Government effort to suppress COVID-19 in the regions. They should assume the position of Heads of COVID-19 Regional Task Forces, while the President heads the Central Task Force. “The President holds general governmental authority as regulated in Law Number 23 of 2014. Therefore, as per Professor Djohermansyah’s input, the President is the commander of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic with his position as the Central Task Force Head,” he said. 

How the Pandemic Affects Villages 

Committee I DPD RI further discussed other issues, such as regional finance. Specifically, it looked at how the fiscal capacity, and consequently, the level of dependence on Central Government, differs between each region. Such differences signify a different capacity to cover needs to mitigate COVID-19 through regional budgets, i.e. how much is available to fulfill urgent public services and construction under the circumstances, above and beyond the usual expenditures. Regional Governments must also consider threats to regional stability, as the number of poor and unemployed citizens has swelled vastly, due to the economic drop triggered by the pandemic. 

An important issue being discussed in the RDPU by the experts and Committee I of DPD RI is the consideration that must be made regarding the upcoming Regional Elections. There is a strong possibility that the Elections could be postponed. Considerations for such a postponement include the legal basis that needs to be prepared, which should cover everything from the safety of Electoral Officials in the field; the participation of citizens as voters, as they would understandably focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic instead of on political issues; how the technical stages would be actuated in the Regional Elections, such as research and match-up of voter data, campaigns, and the voting proper – will this conflict with COVID-19 health and safety protocols (physical distancing)? What about changes in the List of Voters, especially for first-time voters; the tenure of Regional Heads; and naturally, the budgeting for everything. “We are going to ask the Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”), the Election Monitoring Agency (Badan Pengawas Pemilhan Umum – “Bawaslu”), and the Minister of Home Affairs about the plan to integrate the Regional Elections Law with the General Elections Law, in view of the impact of COVID-19 on the execution of the 2020 Simultaneous Regional Elections,” Fachrul explained. 

The most important impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on villages is clearly a financial one. This includes the recalculation and distribution of Village Funds, which would naturally be expended for the mitigation of COVID-19; refocusing of Village Budgets into health and security programs; the massive return of citizens to their home town due to multiple layoffs and loss of business; and the obstructed development of villages. “The DPR has not responded much to Government policies. Therefore, the DPD RI must make the most of their participation by focusing on Central Government policies relating to Regional and Village Governments,” Siti Zuhro warned. (Dan)