Amid widespread public health shortages, lawmakers get special treatment – again

CNN Indonesia – July 29, 2021
Quarantine hotel for Covid-19 positive patients undergoing isolation – Undated (Antara)

Jakarta – The House of Representatives (DPR) has again created controversy over a plan to provide special three-star hotel facilities for lawmakers, staff members and civil servants who have contracted Covid-19 and are self-isolating.

The policy is included in DPR document number SJ/09596/SETJEN DPR RI/DA/07/2021 dated July 26, 2021. Copies of the document have been sent to the DPR leadership, the DPR's Household Affairs Committee, the deputy for assembly affairs, the principle inspector, the head of the DPR’s expert body and the acting deputy for administrative affairs.

The DPR's Secretariat General is working with several hotels to provide self-isolation facilities for lawmakers who are confirmed Covid-19 positive – both those without symptoms or with minor symptoms.

DPR Secretary General Indra Iskandar argues that these self-isolation facilities are needed because DPR members have a high level of mobility in their electoral districts.

A number of fractions in the DPR have rejected the facilities on the grounds that they are not yet needed by house members and it is unethical given the public's difficulties in finding healthcare facilities.

This is not the first time that the DPR has proposed or issued controversial policies in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been numerous proposals and policies coming out of the DPR to provide special treatment to certain parties.

Here, CNN Indonesia summaries several of these policies:

1. Covid-19 test for DPR members and families

On March 23 last year, the DPR issued a policy to conduct rapid tests for the 575 DPR members along with all their family members.

DPR Secretary General Indra Iskandar claimed at the time that the state budget was not used to cover the tests for lawmakers and that the funds were collected from donations by DPR members.

At the time, the number of available corona virus rapid test kits was minimal and still expensive.

The DPR was criticised over the policy. There was even a petition signed by more than 11 thousand people calling on the government not to allocate special rapid test kits for DPR members and their families.

At the time, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo also did not want rapid tests being conducted on inappropriate people, including DPR members.

2. Vaccination for DPR members and their families

DPR members along with their family members and staff received Covid-19 vaccinations in late February. The vaccinations were conducted at the DPR parliamentary complex at a closed venue.

Indra Iskandar said that the vaccination target for the DPR and its environs was 12,000 people.

This total comprised DPR members and their families, civil servants at the Secretariat General and their families, expert staff, internal security staff, cleaning staff, gardeners and drivers.

The policy attracted criticism because the DPR family members and staff were not included in the first round of vaccination priority targets. The second stage of the Covid-19 vaccination program had only just begun and was targeting civil servants which had frequent contact with the public.

Parliamentary watchdog the Forum of Concerned Citizens for Indonesia's Parliament (Formappi) even criticised the DPR for picking up "illegal passengers" by conducting the vaccination.

3. Special ICUs for lawmakers

DPR Commission IX member Saleh Daulay from the National Mandate Party (PAN) faction recently said that he did not want to again hear about house members who have contracted Covid-19 being unable to obtain hospital treatment at intensive care units (ICU).

This was raised during a Commission IX working meeting with Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin on Tuesday July 13.

"I don't want to hear for example about another DPR member not getting admitted to an ICU, like what my fellow PAN faction member, my brother John Siffy Mirin, experienced", Daulay said.

Daulay later clarified the proposal saying that he did not intend to differentiate between people and claimed that he has always fought for easy access to healthcare services for the public.

In addition to Daulay, PAN Deputy Secretary General Rosaline Irene Rumaseuw also proposed that a special Covid-19 hospital be built for public officials. He claimed to be shocked over the government's position of not thinking about healthcare problems facing government officials.

Their statements however were criticised by the public. PAN General Chairperson Zulkifli Hasan alias Zulhas also reprimanded senior party officials for requesting special hospitals or ICUs for government officials and DPR members.

4. Special number plates for DPR members

In mid-May all 575 DPR members were given special number plates for their vehicles. It was hoped that this would be a sign so the public could easily recognise their representatives in parliament.

DPR Deputy Sepaker Sufmi Dasco Ahmad argued that the special number plates would make it easier to identify their vehicles at the parliamentary complex in Senayan, Jakarta, or on other roads – including if lawmakers violated road rules.

The policy was criticised by the public with Formappi slamming the policy saying that the move showed that DPR members considered themselves exclusive. (rzr/fra)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Kontroversi DPR Kala Pandemi: Vaksin Keluarga, Hotel Isoman".]