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Chairman of Indonesian Pediatric Association (IDAI) Aman Bhakti Pulungan is concerned about the rising cases of Covid-19 among children in Indonesia. According to IDAI’s record, around 117,000 children have been infected since the pandemic struck. Children makes up 12.5 percent of the total cases. Aman says children are most vulnerable to the disease via their parents and the people around them. He observes that many pediatric patients with Covid-19 go to doctors rather late rendering the doctors unable to offer maximal treatment. Given the recent surge in the cases, Aman urges the government to put on hold face-to-face classes scheduled to resume in July.
Dr. Sasa carries out his duties as International Cooperation Minister and Spokesperson for National Unity Government (NUG), Myanmar’s parallel government, from an undisclosed hiding place. He moves from one discussion forum to the next to lobby for support from the international community. Sasa has been in contact with international leaders and politicians from the US, UK, EU or even Japan, yet he has been unsuccessful in establishing communication with ASEAN. He presses ASEAN to take a more prominent role in resolving the crisis in his home country, among others, by promptly appointing a special envoy to mediate dialog between the NUG and junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. According to him the five point consensus from the ASEAN Summit has not been followed up.
Following an investigation into the leak of personal data belonging to 279 million Indonesian citizens on May 20, Population and Civil Registration Director-General Zudan Arif Fakrulloh ascertained that it was not population data. As Indonesia’s Population and Civil Registration (Dukcapil) data is the world’s fourth largest big data after those of China, India and the United States, Zudan is constantly worried about the threat of hackers. Albeit Dukcapil’s system which is more sophisticated nowadays, Zudan admits that his agency’s infrastructure on the other hand is already out of date. To build a stronger system and upgrade the infrastructure, the home affairs ministry is planning to collect non-tax revenues from private companies that access Dukcapil data.
Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia, Zuhair al-Shun, urges the international community to take concrete actions against Israel through economic or political blockade which he believes could pressure Israel. Al-Shun says that the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is not a lasting resolution to bring an end to the conflict in Gaza adding that the United Nations has already passed many resolutions, among others Resolution 181 of 1947, to create free Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. He hopes that the United States’ new administration under President Joe Biden will take a fairer stance in the issue. Al-Shun also conveys the Palestinian authority’s appreciation towards political and humanitarian support given by the Indonesian government and its people and gives advice on how to properly funnel solidarity funds for the Palestinian people.
After three years at the helm of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Laksana Tri Handoko is entrusted with a new job: to lead the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN). The Japan-educated scientist is given a mandate by President Joko Widodo to integrate five major national research institutes. He is tasked to catch up lags in science and technology, to create technological independence and to focus on exploring the digital economy as well as green and blue economy. He would also continue his efforts which he initiated in LIPI to bring back a diaspora of Indonesian researchers to strengthen BRIN. Handoko said BRIN also needed political support to realize research as one of the main pillars of the national economy.
Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, known as Zunar, and non-profit organization Hujah Ehsan are holding an online exhibition of the ASEAN Human Rights Cartoon Exhibition from May 3 to 30. The exhibition, titled Human Rights at the Homeland, features 100 critical cartoons by 37 cartoonists from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar. Tempo interviewed Zunar to understand the road and the importance of the exhibition, also the development of political cartoons in Southeast Asia.
If nothing else, the Covid-19 pandemic has not managed to disrupt Nur Rofiah’s Qur’anic Recitation Session on Gender Justice in Islam. Through the da’wah forum she initiated in the Ramadan two years ago, the professor in Qur’anic studies and interpretation fights for gender justice for Muslim women by raising awareness that women’s humanity is equal to men’s. She first got acquainted with the gender justice issue when she was studying at the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic Institute in Yogyakarta in the 90s when the gender issue was a hot topic and people were associating it with Islam. Her interest in the issue grew stronger as she immersed herself in the world of activism. Apart from being active as a lecturer and an activist, Nur Rofiah also helped launch the country’s first female Muslim clerics’ congress in 2017.
Seasoned musician Candra Darusman was again at the center of efforts to fight for the welfare of musicians and songwriters. As the chair of Indonesian Musician Union Federation (Fesmi), his input was solicited for the formulation of Government Regulation No. 56/2021 regarding the management of music royalties. The regulation inked by President Joko Widodo on March 30 not only governs parties responsible to pay royalties but also lays down the basis for the establishment of a data center as well as a music information system. Before he headed Fesmi in 2019, Candra represented Indonesia at World Intellectual Property Organization for 18 years, nine years respectively at the organization’s offices in Switzerland and Singapore. After decades of being active in intellectual property rights protection, Candra is determined to improve the lives of musicians and songwriters by, among others, improving royalty management amid new challenges in the digital era.
Mukti Fajar Nur Dewata was elected as Judicial Commission Chairman amid its declining image and questions about its existence. He must clear the backlog he inherited including the agency’s sour relation with the Supreme Court. Intersecting supervisory jurisdiction of the Commission and the Supreme Court’s supervisory agency has rendered the Judicial Commission unable to perform its duties optimally. The Commission is currently in the process of reviewing the plan to revise the Judicial Commission Law to delineate the boundaries of its jurisdiction.
The Indonesian Ombudsman finally intervened in the rice import polemic last March. Agency Chair Mokhammad Najih said the government’s planned rice import ahead of the prime harvest season had discomposed the public, particularly farmers, while in fact the import would not become necessary until May. Moreover, the agency also found maladministration in the policy making process. Najih added that the Ombudsman had strengthened its role in helping improve the public service quality. In addition to following through with public reports and complaints, it will continue to enhance oversight of the ministries and state agencies. The focus of the watchdogs’ new board will be on economic development issues and their impact on public services. Najih also highlighted the need to expand his agency’s authority.
State Health Care and Social Security Agency’s (BPJS Kesehatan) CEO Ali Ghufron Mukti revealed that his agency was still in the red with a deficit of Rp6.3 trillion as of December 2020. The increased premiums starting last January coupled with the decline in the use of BPJS services during the pandemic are expected to help reduce the deficit. Given the pandemic as a non-natural disaster, the government has borne coronavirus treatment costs. Ghufron said that to increase public’s participation, BPJS Kesehatan was exploring an innovative funding mechanism via cooperation with philanthropic institutions with the hope to help fund prospective National Health Insurance-Healthy Indonesia Card (JKN-KIS) holders or even assist settle arrears. This way, the entire population will eventually have access to health care.
Indonesian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (ITAGI) Chair Sri Rezeki Hadinegoro said that the Covid-19 immunization has been fairly smooth albeit the vaccine shortage. The high mortality rate among the elderly population has prompted the government to shuffle the order of priority groups for vaccination. On the advice of the ITAGI, the elderly group was moved forward from the fourth to the second in line to be vaccinated along with public servants. Accoding to Sri Rezeki the main objective of vaccination was not to create heard immunity as widely publicized but rather to lower the death rate. Not only participating in the preparation of vaccination roadmap, the ITAGI also gives recommendations to the health ministry.
Hariyadi Sukamdani, Chairman of the Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants Association (PHRI), was quick to register his members in the second stage of the national Covid-19 vaccination program. His desire is to have all 121,500 PHRI members working in the hotel and tourism industry to be vaccinated. But this wish is hampered by the limited amount of vaccine availability. Hariyadi said that vaccinating tourism workers is important to revive the industry, especially in Bali, which had taken a hard blow from suspended tourism. Hariyadi, who is also the CEO of Sahid Group and Chairman of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), supports the government’s plan to open a Covid-free corridor in collaboration with several nations.
The fatwa (edict) commission of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) declared the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine haram (forbidden by Islamic law) because it used trypsin enzyme from pigs in its viral multiplication process. The fatwa runs counter to the drug monitoring agency (BPOM)’s ruling that the enzyme is already broken up thus no longer present in the vaccine making process. Penny Kusumastuti Lukito, Chair of BPOM, considers the end product to be free of porcine material. Given the limited supply of halal (permissible by Islamic law)-certified vaccine Sinovac, the government has no choice but to turn to other vaccines including AstraZeneca.
Chief Executive Officer of Astra International Djony Bunarto Tjondro is leading the company in the middle of the crisis resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. The large-scale social restrictions from April to May 2020 was a blow to the Astra group automotive industry. Sales of cars and motorbikes fell sharply as a result of the weak market and people's buying power. Astra's business began to revive after the government relaxed the social restrictions from the middle of 2020. Supported by other business units, Astra was able to book a net profit of Rp175.05 trillion for last year, although this was down 26 percent on the previous year. As well as retaining its more established main business lines Djony says that Astra plans to diversify its business as a result of the pandemic. Electric vehicles is sector where preparations are underway.
Since the Myanmar army staged a coup on February 1, Myanmar Now’s Chief Editor Swe Win has intensified communication with the journalists on the ground from his refuge in Australia to keep the world updated of what is happening in Myanmar. He said rumors of a coup had been swirling when the military made several political maneuvers to discredit the November 2020 general election results. Myanmar has now plunged into a crisis as the coup sparked nationwide protests and civil disobedient movement. Clashes between protesters and security forces have left scores of deaths and sent hundreds of protesters, activists and journalists behind bars.
Since his recent appointment as the Naritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister, Sakti Wahyu Trenggono has already annulled three regulations on lobster larvae export and the use of trawl issued by his predecessor, Edhy Prabowo, who was arrested in the lobster larvae export graft case. The former deputy minister of defense with extensive experience in telecommunication is in the process of issuing regulations to ban the export of lobster larvae and the use of cantrang or trawl to prevent overfishing and ecological destruction. Given the task by the President to improve the welfare of fishermen, Trenggono is trying to steer the farmers toward fish farming which he believes will bring prosperity to the country’s small-scale fishers. He also vowed not to repeat the mistakes of his predecessor.