COVID-19 Op-ed

Unscientific Approach by Indonesian Government Violates Right to Information

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Mahesti HasanahResearcher at
Research Center for Politics and Government
(PolGov)
Department Politics and Government, Universitas
Gadjah Mada

“From our modeling, coronavirus will die in Indonesian hot
weather”, says the Coordinating Minister of Maritime and Investment Affairs,
one of Jokowi’s ministers, in a press conference at the Parliamentarian
office on 2 April 2020. The government has imposed a large-scale physical
distancing that includes the closure of schools and offices and a ban on
religious gatherings. Some economic activities are permitted to
continue.This strategy, however, is not enough to stop the coronavirus. As of
3 April 2020, Indonesia has 1,986 coronavirus cases, almost double the
number a week ago. Specifically, there have been 181
deaths and only 134 recoveries. This number increases people’s anguish
and spreads panic at all levels, from national to village areas. Furthermore,
the situation also seen as a failure of the Indonesian government on how to
give a proper education about the pandemic. Unclear information and the
absence of public education on the issue are the main reasons for people’s
behavior.Unscientific discourses were raised by the Indonesian government in
violation of its people’s fundamental right information. While the other
parts braced themselves for impact as early as the first weeks of February,
the Indonesian Vice President, on 29 February 2020, stated that Indonesia
remains safe from the virus due to the practice of ‘doa qunut’ – one of the
prayers in Muslim’s beliefs, from Islamic leaders. Prior that day, the Health
Minister also gave an unexpected argument by saying that “prayer is one of
the main keys to tackle corona in Indonesia”. And two months later, the same
unscientific arguments were produced by another ministry.In this context,
proper information does not merely refer to mortality rates, recovery rates,
or the horrifying statements of politicians. It covers broader dimensions
based on medical science scholars, researchers, experts, etc. that could
educate people at the same time. As recognized under Article 19 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and in
Indonesian constitution Article 28F, amendments of 2000, everyone shall have
the right to seek, receive, and impart information of all kinds, yet there
are certain restrictions in the name of public security. ‘The public
security’ that the Indonesian government understands the opposite of the
covenant’s spirit and creates public misunderstanding instead.The violation
also impacts people’s understanding of how they should react and respond to
the pandemic. WHO suggests being “well informed” about the COVID-19 virus,
the disease it causes and how it spreads as the best way to prevent and slow
down transmission. Taiwan and Hongkong are two examples of how their
government gave appropriate information about the issue. And one thing that
needs to be a highlighted is these countries always provide transparency and
accountable information for their public. Taiwan government raises daily
press briefings and regular public service broadcasts from simple
recommendations, such as handwashing procedures, wearing face masks, and the
dangers of hoarding were effective. It shows that simple, yet
scientific-based information could be educated and raised people’s awareness.
Hence, there is trust between their cities and their governments.Empowering
public information regarding the coronavirus based on a scientific approach
is needed. The right to information is one of the effective ways to save
people because it educated them through credible resources. Furthermore, it
could maintain Indonesian democracy by promoting Indonesian government
accountability. Because avoiding the virus under the unscientific approach
maybe will save its political chaos, yet it will cost the lives of Indonesian
citizens.ReferencesEgeham, Lizsa. (2020,
February 29). Ma’aruf
Amin: berkat doa kiai dan Qunut, corona menyingkir dari Indonesia
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Liputan 6.Hakim, Rakhmat Nur. (2020, April 02). Luhut:
dari hasil modelling, virus corona tak kuat hidup di cuaca
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stalled coronavirus response
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Februari 28). Terawan
sebut doa jadi salah satu alasan Indonesia bebas COVID-19
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Tempo.Rasmussen, Anders. (2020, March 18). Taiwan has
been shut out of global health discussion. Its participation could have saved
lives.
Time.Report
Coronavirus cases per country
as of April 03, 2020.UN General
Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights
, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999,
p. 171World
Health Organizations (WHO). Coronavirus
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