TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - After much criticism, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has finally decided to impose a national ban on mudik or homecoming ahead of the coming Lebaran, or Eid al-Fitr Day, in a bid to curb the COVID-19 outbreak which has recorded 6,760 positive cases in Indonesia.
“Today, I am making a big decision. In today's meeting I would like to convey that we will prohibit everyone from going mudik. As a result, please start all the necessary preparations," Jokowi said via teleconference from the Merdeka Palace, Jakarta, on Tuesday, April 21, 2020.
The government, continued Jokowi, has taken the decision to impose the national ban on homecomings based on evaluations conducted by the government, after previously being strictly limited to warnings against going homecoming.
The result of the evaluation done by the Ministry of Transportation indicated that 68 percent of Indonesians have committed to not go homecoming, while 24 percent still insisted that they do, with 7 percent having already gone homecoming.
"This means that there is still a very large portion of 24 percent. Therefore, I will follow the homecoming ban for civil servants (ASN), the National Military (TNI), and the Police Force (Polri) enacted last week with another big decision to ban homecoming for everyone, "Jokowi stated.
In terms of the preparations following the national ban on homecomings thus far, social assistance programs have been distributed, the food staples card program is now running in the greater Jakarta area, and the pre-employment card program has also started. "This week, cash assistance will also be given," he added.
Previously, Jokowi’s policy on homecomings ahead of Lebaran 2020 has been strictly limited to warnings. At the same time, Jokowi had previously admitted that the central government did not rule out the possibility of an official national ban.
Public Policy Expert from the University of Indonesia (UI) Defny Holidin assessed that Jokowi had been hesitant to decide on a national homecoming ban due to being stuck in a dilemma between prioritizing the safety of the Indonesian people from the pandemic and the potential economic crisis that would follow a national ban.
The government, Defny continued, sees homecomings as more than just a social tradition. Instead, the economic crisis that would follow will result from banning homecomings as an opportunity to allow the distribution of economic resources and capital independently and efficiently, among the people of Indonesia.
"In fact, temporarily suspending economic activities will mean a shorter period of time required in handling the pandemic, instead of allowing the pandemic to unravel without any concrete manner of handling," Defny said when contacted by Tempo on Friday, April 10, 2020.
DEWI NURITA | DIO SUHENDA (INTERN TRANSLATOR)