Rule breakers dig mass graves

After the Philippines, Indonesia is the country most affected by the coronavirus in Southeast Asia. The average number of new daily cases in Indonesia (at the time of writing) sits around 3500. The country has already recorded 232,000 cases of coronavirus and 9000 deaths.

As fines and alternative social sanctions have so far proven unsuccessful in deterring breaches of restrictions, Indonesian officials recently tried a new approach.

The standard punishment for those breaking safety restrictions and who refuse or are unable to pay fines of 100,000–250,000 rupiah ($9–$23), include cleaning public spaces such as picking up rubbish or sweeping sewers. But many officials have been coming up with new, highly criticised, alternatives aimed spreading awareness of the dangers of COVID-19 to deter further rule breaking.

These punishments involve digging the graves of COVID-19 victims, lying in coffins, and praying for the victims.

“It seems that the social punishment by cleaning up public facilities that have been implemented so far has not had a deterrent effect,” senior commissioner Sumardji, chief of Sidoarjo City Police, told the ABC. “So, we took the initiative to order the violators to pray together at the special grave for COVID-19 victims in Sidoarjo.”  

Individuals caught violating the wide-scale social restrictions in the Gresik Regency of East Java had to dig mass graves after refusing to pay fines.

“These efforts are a joint innovation, which perhaps makes our society more careful and creates a new culture, so people continue to wear masks,” said Abu Hassan, head of the Public Order Agency in Gresik. “They said they won’t repeat their mistakes and they expressed their empathy to those people who died due to COVID-19,” he continued.

After criticism that these punishments were too extreme, they have been temporarily suspended. Mr Hassan commented, “Maybe it is too traumatic, so we will get the punishment back to social work following the regulations.”

What do you think of Indonesia’s alternative punishments? Do you think having rule breakers dig graves and pray for victims is too traumatic?

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Written by Liv Gardiner

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