Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Love Is Not in the Air: Indonesian Police Earn New Reputation as Wedding Crashers During Pandemic

Jayanty Nada Shofa
April 8, 2020 | 5:56 pm
The bride and groom and guests wear masks at a wedding party in Pekanbaru, Riau, on Saturday. (Antara Photo/F.B. Anggoro)
The bride and groom and guests wear masks at a wedding party in Pekanbaru, Riau, on Saturday. (Antara Photo/F.B. Anggoro)

Jakarta. Don't worry about your ex coming to crash your wedding during this pandemic. Watch out for the police instead. 

The Indonesian Police have earned a new reputation as wedding crashers recently as Indonesia continues its desperate fight against the Covid-19 epidemic, breaking up elaborate wedding parties that often have been planned for months. 

Indonesians have continued to hold extravagant wedding receptions – attended by hundreds of guests who will queue to shake hands with the newlyweds and hand them money as gift – during the pandemic, arguing they're a long-running tradition that cannot easily be abandoned.

With large-scale social distancing in place, newlyweds now fear having their receptions dispersed by the police.


National Police Chief Idham Azis issued a circular last month ordering his subordinates to take stern measures to stop non-essential events, including wedding parties.

The police have teamed up with the Indonesian Military (TNI) to carry out daily patrols in search of mass gatherings, breaking them up to keep the coronavirus pandemic from spiraling out of control.

Many couples, however, insist their party must go on with caterings already booked and invitations dashed off to friends and families.

Their defiance of government warnings against the exponential spread of Covid-19 led to local authorities being forced to crash weddings and send the crowd packing. 

On March 22, police officers disbanded a wedding party in Purwokerto, Central Java, despite hundreds of guests already arriving at the venue.

The Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) and the Regional Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) were involved in the operation, spraying disinfectants inside the venue, buses for the guests and even on the guests themselves in a dramatic scene unthinkable before the pandemic.

Before they were kicked out of the premise, the guests were also forced to get their temperatures checked.

You Have Five Minutes to Leave

A video of a wedding in Lampung being crashed by the police has also surfaced online.

An officer at the party berated the guests, "We hope everyone here understands the situation. You will be given five minutes to leave the venue immediately. This is unfortunate, but it must be done to ensure your own safety and health."

The video was uploaded by Twitter user @WahyonoNeal on March 27.

Since then, more videos of wedding parties ending prematurely due to police intervention in many parts of the archipelago have circulated on the internet.

On a recent teleconference at the House of Representatives (DPR), Police Chief Idham said a total of 9,733 mass public gatherings had been disbanded by the police until the end of March.

Double Standard

Having your wedding party foiled by the police is bad enough. Seeing photographs of a police officer holding his own lavish wedding party at a five-star hotel in Jakarta while the city is under a semi-lockdown only adds salt to the wound.

Deputy Commissioner Fahrul Sudiono, the chief of the Kembangan subdistrict police in West Jakarta, carried on with his swanky wedding party on March 21, just two days after the circular from the National Police Chief was issued.

Photos of the party at a five-star hotel in South Jakarta, best known for holding high-profile wedding parties for the city's socialites, went viral last week.

Among Fahrul's guests was Comr. Gen. Gatot Eddy Pramono, the police chief's deputy. 

A public backlash quickly ensued, which led to newlywed Fahrul being demoted to desk duty as a policy analyst at the Jakarta Police headquarters.

Gatot, meanwhile, got away scot-free from the controversy. 

Meanwhile, in North Sulawesi, Police Chief Insp. Gen. Roycke Lumowa also provoked public outrage after he hosted a cycling event in the provincial capital of Manado attended by the city's mayor, on the same day as Fahrul's wedding.

Tie the Knot, but Hold Off on the Partying

Jakarta, the epicenter for the coronavirus outbreak in Indonesia, will begin intensifying its city-wide restrictions on Friday under the so-called large-scale social restriction policy, abbreviated as PSBB.

Couples, however, can still tie the knot amid the tighter restrictions under one condition.

"Vow exchange ceremonies are not prohibited, but they must be done at the religious affairs office," Governor Anies Baswedan said on Tuesday.

It is the wedding parties that won't be tolerated, Anies said.

According to the Religious Affairs Ministry, the vow exchange service is only available to couples who have applied for the marriage registration before April. The ministry will also not accept applications for online vow exchanges.

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