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Two Indonesian police chiefs reassigned after massive religious gatherings violated health protocols

Two Indonesian police chiefs reassigned after massive religious gatherings violated health protocols

Indonesian Islamic cleric and the leader of Islamic Defenders Front Rizieq Shihab speaks to his followers upon arrival from Saudi Arabia at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia, Nov 10, 2020. (Photo: AP)

JAKARTA: The police chiefs of Jakarta and West Java have been reassigned after they were said to have failed to act against mass gatherings over the weekend organised by an Islamist leader who recently returned from exile.

National Police spokesman Argo Yuwono told CNA on Tuesday (Nov 17) that Jakarta's police chief Nana Sudjana and West Java's police chief Rudy Sufahriadi “had failed to carry out orders to enforce health protocols and are therefore sanctioned".

Mr Sudjana has been reassigned as an advisor at the National Police headquarters while Mr Sufahriadi has been given a new position in a police training centre. The decision, Mr Yuwono said, was made by the National Police chief on Monday.

“The National Police chief has ordered his subordinates not to hesitate in taking firm actions against those violating health protocols,” Mr Yuwono said. “The National Police also will not hesitate to take firm actions against those who do not follow orders.”

When asked by CNA, Mr Yuwono declined to pinpoint the exact incidents which led to the reassignment of the two police chiefs.

Both have been widely criticised for allowing a series of mass gatherings to take place last week, and Indonesian media reported that they were removed from their posts after the gatherings. 

The first was a gathering of thousands of supporters of firebrand cleric Rizieq Shihab, who returned to Indonesia on Nov 10 after three years of self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Shihab is the leader of the hardline Islamic Defenders' Front and has millions of devout followers.

A fierce critic of President Joko Widodo’s government, Mr Shihab fled the country in 2017 when a number of charges from pornography to insulting the state’s ideology Pancasila were levelled against him.

People gather for the homecoming of Rizieq Shihab, the leader of Indonesian Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) who has resided in Saudi Arabia since 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia, November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

Days after his return, the cleric led two mass gatherings to celebrate the birthday of Islamic Prophet Muhammad on Nov 13. The sermons, which attracted thousands of followers, took place in Jakarta and the city of Bogor, West Java.

The cleric then staged a massive wedding reception for his daughter last Saturday evening. The wedding is said to have been attended by 10,000 guests.

Many who were seen at the gatherings did not wear masks or practise safe distancing.

There are now more than 470,000 COVID-19 cases in Indonesia.

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