State Palace denies President Jokowi insensitive towards haze crisis after posting vlog with grandson

President Joko Widodo going for a morning stroll with his grandson. Photo: Video screengrab from Twitter/@jokowi
President Joko Widodo going for a morning stroll with his grandson. Photo: Video screengrab from Twitter/@jokowi

President Joko Widodo has come under fire for posting a seemingly innocuous vlog on social media that has been widely panned for its inappropriate timing, given that huge parts of the country are suffering from the haze crisis.

On Saturday, Jokowi posted a video taken from the Bogor State Palace, showing him spending a quality morning with his grandson, Jan Ethes, while playing with deer on the palace’s vast grounds.

While Jan Ethes has been adored by the public during his previous appearances with his grandfather, this time, the public reaction has been overwhelmingly negative against Jokowi, as highlighted by the replies to the tweet above.

Referring to a picture of a deceased baby, who reportedly passed away due to health complications caused by breathing in toxic haze, the Twitter user above wrote, “If only this child had the same opportunity to go on a walk with his grandfather while breathing in fresh air, Sir. I pray that the president be given good health so that his family does not experience what the people are experiencing.”

Another user wrote, “Sir, please keep [the video] for your private collection for now, our country is far from fine. You have the right to enjoy time with your grandson, nobody is prohibiting that, but please share [the video] later, after everything is conducive.”

In response to the widespread criticism of Jokowi for the video, presidential spokesperson Adita Irawati denied that the president lacks empathy for haze victims and that the issue doesn’t have his full attention.

“His posting of the video does not mean that he is insensitive. At every moment he always monitors developments and receives reports, as well as instructing the relevant ministries and agencies,” Adita told Tempo yesterday.

Related: Viral videos of blood red skies show horrific levels of haze in Indonesia’s Jambi

Haze from Indonesia — largely sparked by land-clearance fires that have grown out of control — has been choking the region for several weeks now but has escalated in severity recently, causing air pollution that several thousands schools across the region have had to shut down due to health concerns last week 

The Indonesia government has deployed an additional 5,600 officers to fire-prone regions, bringing the total number to more than 14,000. Officials are also looking to new ways to curb the difficult-to-fight fires, including the use of calcium oxide to help form clouds for potential seeding and the deployment of drones to get more real-time information on emerging hot spots. 

Indonesian police say they have arrested some 230 people on suspicion of starting land-clearance fires, all of whom are facing up to 10 years in prison. Authorities have also sealed off land owned by at least 49 plantation companies in the past week for investigation after fires were found on their concessions.

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