Room modelled after White House facility is Jokowi's eye in the sky

The Situation Room at Merdeka Palace.
The Situation Room at Merdeka Palace. ST PHOTO: FRANCIS CHAN

The Situation Room at the Bina Graha presidential complex in Jakarta is President Joko Widodo's eye in the sky when he is tracking the haze crisis.

Modelled after a similar facility found at the White House in Washington, DC, it was set up by former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at a cost of eight billion rupiah (S$800,000), so that he can keep an eye on his ministers' performance.

Chief of Presidential Staff Teten Masduki said the room is now used by Mr Joko as an extension of his trademark impromptu ground visits, or blusukan, among other things.

"This is where we monitor the haze and also traffic situations, and get updates on government construction projects," he told The Sunday Times on Friday.

The Situation Room is fitted with multiple flat screens and allows the user to call up satellite images of heat maps indicating where the hot spots are, for example, so that the authorities can identify exactly where the fires started and how they are spreading.

This information can be used to facilitate probes into individual landowners or firms suspected of using illegal slash-and-burn techniques to clear land, for instance.

The highly secured facility is located just below Mr Teten's office, but images are beamed live from both static and mobile cameras installed by the government all over the nation. "Indonesia is a big country and it is hard to be everywhere at once, but this facility allows the President to have a real-time overview of what is happening on the ground - so we know what is going on exactly," said Mr Teten.

The high-tech gear, however, has not stopped Mr Joko from hitting the ground during a crisis. For instance, he has travelled to both Sumatra and Kalimantan during this haze crisis, not just to inspect relief and rescue efforts, but also to witness for himself the physical damage and human cost of the illegal forest fires and haze, said Mr Teten.

Francis Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 04, 2015, with the headline 'Room modelled after White House facility is Jokowi's eye in the sky'. Print Edition | Subscribe