Indonesian reporter grills empty chair on Covid-19 situation after health minister's no-show

The next logical thing to do.

Syahindah Ishak | September 30, 2020, 05:51 PM

Indonesian reporter Najwa Shihab interviewed an empty chair in a Sep. 28 episode of her political talkshow, Mata Najwa.

Interviewed empty chair for four minutes

Najwa said she had invited Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto "several times" for a face-to-face interview.

She had wanted to question him regarding the ministry's handling of the Covid-19 crisis in Indonesia.

However, Najwa explained that she never got a call back from the minister.

So in this four-minute video, Najwa directed her questions to a vacant chair where Terawan would have sat.

Najwaalso ensured that she socially distanced herself from the chair during the interview.

Asked tough questions

"Why have you disappeared, sir?"

Najwa asked a number of tough questions on the Indonesian government's handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

She took aim at Terawan's low profile during this crisis period.

She also asked the chair to explain the high death rate of medical workers in the country, and mentioned the repeated reprimands from Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

"Why have you disappeared, sir? You rarely appear in public to provide an explanation about the pandemic. It seems like the only health minister in the world that is this inactive during the crisis is you. Is your presence in front of the public not important?

I want to clarify whether it's true that at the beginning of the pandemic, you were the first to mention that we didn’t need a lockdown.

President Joko Widodo has publicly reprimanded you for your poor performance. Based on his assessment, let me give you an opportunity to explain them one by one.

Why haven't our Covid-19 tests reached the target? Why is the ministry’s budget for Covid-19 so low? Why are the health ministry's regulations still confusing? Why hasn’t the government provided maximum health protection for health workers?"

The chair did not have the answers.

Najwa also pointed out that Terawan didn't consider the virus a big threat in the beginning of the crisis. She then asked: "Do you now admit that we should have been more responsive during the initial phase of the pandemic?"

"Are you ready to step down, sir?"

Towards the end of the interview, Najwa asked if Terawan would be ready to resign, similar to how other health ministers around the world stepped down after handling the pandemic in their country poorly.

"The public has created a petition. They want you to be dismissed. Are you ready to step down, sir?

So many health ministers have resigned because of their poor performance. For example, the health ministers in New Zealand, Czech Republic, Poland, Brazil, Chile, Pakistan, Israel’s public health director, and Canada’s public health agency president.

My question then, sir, is our handling better than those countries?"

Najwa ended the video by publicly inviting Terawan to her show so that he can answer her questions himself.

Continued taking aim at Terawan on Twitter

In a lengthy Twitter thread on Sep. 28, Najwa continued urging Indonesia's Health Ministry to provide clear solutions to prevent the pandemic from spiralling out of control even further.

She wrote:

"This invitation (to Terawan) is not a challenge or the like, but it is a hope that the information and policy of handling this pandemic can be obtained directly from the authorities.

The public needs to listen to the government's plan to address the pandemic that has been going on for the past six months.

There is a lot of work to be done, but it can all start with showing up. Mr Terawan, you can decide the place and time."

You can read the Twitter thread here:

Over 287,000 cases in Indonesia

According to worldometer, Indonesia has more than 287,000 Covid-19 cases as of Wednesday (Sep. 30).

It is also the country with the most Covid-19 deaths (over 10,000) in Southeast Asia.

Screenshot taken from worldometer.

Screenshot taken from worldometer.

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Top image screenshot from Najwa Shihab/YouTube.