Residents of a village in East Java’s Situbondo regency were caught on film destroying the coffin of a deceased COVID-19 patient, the video of which has widely circulated in Indonesia.
The clip showed dozens of villagers crashing the coffin onto the ground and smashing it with logs and other tools. People widely assumed to be family members of the deceased can be heard crying in another clip, with one of them fainting and later seen carried away by the villagers.
“We have actually held them back and forbade the villagers from opening the coffin. But because there were so many people, the incident couldn’t be stopped,” Budiono, who heads the COVID-19 task force in Panji district, said today.
An unidentified village resident told local media outlets that the incident was sparked by the family of the deceased and some residents of the village wanting to ensure that the body was bathed according to Islamic funeral rites. According to reports, they were troubled by rumors claiming that deceased COVID-19 patients were wrapped with a shroud while still clothed as they were at the time of their death before they were placed inside the coffin.
The people involved then forcibly seized the coffin, removed the body and opened the shroud, before bathing it again and conducting a funeral prayer.
Agus Widodo, who heads Situbondo Police’s Crime Investigation Unit, said they will start to question witnesses, including the people in charge of the funeral and the deceased’s family members. Under Indonesian law, suspects in the case could potentially be charged with violation of articles on hindering the implementation of epidemic control and threatening violence against officials on duty. They carry a maximum sentence of 7 years in prison.
Additionally, Situbondo COVID-19 Task Force Chief Dadang Bintoro has since refuted the rumor, saying that the handling of all deceased COVID-19 patients have been carried out in accordance with standard operating procedures and religious laws.
This incident adds to a long list of people going against the law by forcibly taking their loved ones who succumbed to COVID-19 from authorities and holding funeral processions on their own without health protocols.
Last weekend, a similar incident occurred in Bondowoso regency, East Java where dozens of people burned the coffin after burying the deceased on their own. Residents were reportedly triggered by a hoax about body parts and organs being taken from COVID-19 patients for medical purposes without prior consent.