IO, Jakarta – Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat – “MPR”) Bambang Soesatyo demands that the Government take action against 49 Chinese nationals who entered Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, as foreign workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. He believes that the Government should give no special treatment to any foreign citizen, including those from China, in the current condition of global pandemic and national disaster of Coronavirus. “We demand the Government treat these Chinese citizens strictly and equally with any other foreign national (who might be guilty of the same offence) and cancel the approval of their Health Alert cards, as in such situations there should be no special treatment towards the citizen of any foreign country,” Bambang said on Tuesday (17/03/2020).
Bambang urges the Government, through the Covid-19 Mitigation Acceleration Task Force, to check the location of Virtue Dragon Nickel Industry Area, the company that brought in these foreign workers to Southeast Sulawesi. He further wants these Chinese workers to be quarantined, in the effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Furthermore, “The Government should evaluate the defense of each entry gates into Indonesia, especially the waters and ports. There should be cooperation with the Aquatic Police to improve monitoring by patrolling and guarding our marine frontier, in order to restrict the entry of foreign citizens without residence or working permits,” he said.
In view of the current Covid-19 pandemic, Bambang demands the Government tighten permit requirements for foreign citizens who want to work or live in this country, “As well as tightening visitation permits to Indonesia, and putting health quarantine measures in place for all foreign citizens entering the country, in the effort to prevent the Covid-19 virus from spreading,” he said.
Similarly, the Chairman of the House of Representatives (“DPR”), Committee for Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation (Badan Kerja Sama Antar Parlemen – “BKSAP”), Fadli Zon, questioned why some people would bring in Chinese foreign workers into Indonesia, while others do not. Therefore, he requests that the Government seriously investigate who is behind the entry of these workers. “This really must be investigated! Is it possible for 49 people to actually enter our country in this state of emergency without any connection that would allow them to pass requirements?” he said on Tuesday (17/03/2020).
Fadli finds it odd that so many Chinese workers could enter NKRI amid the severe entry restrictions that the Government has announced. Therefore, he demands that these foreign workers simply be returned to their homeland, stating that the person who issued the permits for Chinese workers amid the Coronavirus pandemic is a traitor to the nation. “This is clearly a scandal! Amid this corona virus pandemic, somebody still attempt to bring in foreign workers from the very origin of the disease, on the sly. We should investigate who behind it – for the sake of national interest,” he said.
Fadli further requests that the Government protect citizens from corona infection as have Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines, who dared to take brave and consistent action. For example, the Government can follow the action of Philippines’ President, Duterte, who fired all civil servants who allowed Chinese nationals to enter the country.
In the Spotlight
The arrival of these 49 Chinese foreign workers became known thanks to a 58-second-long video uploaded by a citizen called Hardiono. The video, which features a man shouting that the arrival of these workers will spread Coronavirus across Indonesia, went viral. Hardiono was then arrested by the Police. However, many protests from netizens forced the Police to release him with a slew of clarifications.
Responding to the arrest of the uploader of the viral video, the Chief of the Provincial Precinct of Southeast Sulawesi, Police Brigadier General Merdysam, publicly apologized for having passed erroneous information concerning the entry of 49 foreign workers from China into Kendari through Haluoleo Airport on Sunday, 15 March 2020. He made the statement after social media turned the request to replace him into a trending topic.
The statement made by the Provincial Precinct of Southeast Sulawesi that these Chinese foreign workers are old workers who extended their work visa from Jakarta was denied by the Regional Office of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights in Southeast Sulawesi. The latter said that these newly-arrived workers from Henan Province in China are here to work in Southeast Sulawesi. The Head of the Southeast Sulawesi Regional Office of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Sofyan, said that the workers transited in Thailand before arriving in Indonesia. They were quarantined in Bangkok before they were finally allowed to continue their journey to Jakarta. However, they were not quarantined in Indonesia. They only obtained Health Alert cards from the Port Health Office (Kantor Kesehatan Pelabuhan – “KKP”) of Soekarno Hatta Airport.
According to the Regulation of the Minister of Justice and Human Rights Number 7 of 2020 concerning the Issuance of Visa and Staying Permit in the Effort to Prevent the Entry of Corona Virus, all foreign workers who enter Indonesia must be quarantined for 14 days.
Meanwhile, Southeast Sulawesi’s Governor Ali Mazi admitted that he is worried about the entry of so many foreign workers from China to work in mining companies in the Regency of Konawe – especially as they entered just in the middle of the Government’s struggle to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus. “Naturally we are worried – the newly-arrived foreign citizens came from China, the origin of the virus, after all,” he said. “Furthermore, I only have the authority to quarantine these 49 foreign workers and not to lock down their work area.”
Separately, Ombudsman Commissioner Laode Ida reprimanded Chief of the Provincial Precinct Southeast Sulawesi for imprisoning the citizen who created the video that announced the arrival of the Chinese foreign workers. He considers this step to be reminiscent of an authoritarian State instrumentality, and it is possible that foreign investors are behind the action. Furthermore, the action shows a lack of concern towards the seriousness of the threat of Coronavirus pandemic. “Once again, I say that this action is an arrogant policy, a characteristic of authoritarianism where officials care more about foreign investors or citizens than the safety of their own people,” he said on Monday (16/03/2020).
Laode said that the Government and law enforcement should protect Indonesia from this pandemic. “On the contrary, Indonesia still continue to give red-carpet treatment towards Chinese foreign workers. Again, this is odd,” he said, “As China is the epicenter of the corona pandemic.” (Dan)