Indonesia braces itself for social unrest amid virus economic downturn

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Achmad Yurianto, the Indonesian government's spokesperson for Covid-19, giving a media briefing briefing at the Executive Office of the President in Jakarta this week. Image: Sigid Kurniawan/Jakarta Post/Antara

Pacific Media Centre

The Indonesian government is bracing itself for social unrest ahead of the Ramadan fasting month amid the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, which has hit purchasing power and put many people out of work, reports The Jakarta Post.

The Executive Office of the President held an online meeting with the National Police’s Security Intelligence Agency (Baintelkam) on Wednesday to discuss various economic measures and prepare for an increase in crimes and security threats.

The government is making preparations to ensure that the increase in unemployment “will not result in social and security conflicts”, the Office’s undersecretary for politics, law, defence and human rights, Jaleswari Pramodhawardani, said in a statement.

READ MORE: Al Jazeera coronavirus live updates – Global death toll tops 150,000

Baintelkam state security director Umar Effendi said that based on the police’s internal studies, there was a risk of an increase in crime that could disrupt public order and security.

“There will always be potential for riots and crimes, especially at a time like this. Therefore, we (the police) are coordinating efforts down to local police forces to conduct supervision and (public) education,” he said in the statement.

Brigadier-General Umar said the police would stand on the front line to keep the public safe.

“We would use a preventive and persuasive approach for security, stability and public order. We would also help the government by escorting the distribution of social aid for impacted residents,” Brigadier-General Umar added.

Safeguarding social aid
Economists have warned that government must safeguard social aid and food supplies to prevent social unrest as the pandemic has had a severe impact on workers and households.

The government has set aside 436.1 trillion rupiah (US$26 billion), equivalent to 2.5 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, for stimulus packages that are focused on healthcare spending, social protection and economic recovery.

Meanwhile, some of the 37,000 prison inmates granted early release or put on parole nationwide to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in overcrowded prisons have been sent back to jail for committing crimes again.

This has been a blow to the Indonesian government’s controversial early release policy.

By Wednesday, the authorities had sent at least 12 of the 37,000 released inmates back to prison for various crimes, including drug dealing and theft, according to the Law and Human Rights Ministry’s Corrections Directorate-General.

“These 12 inmates could give a bad name to the others granted early release. However, we will carry on with the policy (of early release),” Corrections Directorate-General spokesman Rika Aprianti said.

The government plans to release 50,000 prisoners and juvenile inmates eligible for early release and parole to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 in correctional facilities under a policy announced by Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly on March 30.

Regarding the 12 recidivists, Rika said the reduction to their sentences would be revoked and that they had been returned to their respective cells to serve their remaining prison time. If found guilty of new crimes, their sentences will be extended.

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