Jokowi's presence at lavish $9m wedding in Indonesia draws controversy amid Covid-19 curbs

Questions were raised on why Indonesian President Joko Widodo (in blue) attended Youtube star Atta Halilintar's (second from right) wedding amid the Covid-19 pandemic. PHOTO: ATTAHALILINTAR/INSTAGRAM

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A lavish wedding of one of Indonesia's biggest YouTube stars, Atta Halilintar, costing 100 billion rupiah (S$9.2 million), has courted controversy, with questions raised on why President Joko Widodo attended the event amid the Covid-19 pandemic that has curbed many public functions.

The nationally televised wedding party was also attended by Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto and a slew of House of Representatives members.

Mr Widodo sat with six other distinguished guests, including his wife, Iriana, while the newlyweds sat beside them.

Mr Prabowo sat at the other end of the table.

Atta, who has 27 million followers on YouTube and reputedly earns US$1.6 million (S$2 million) a month, married singer and model Aurelia Hermansyah on April 3.

According to Atta, both top officials were invited as witnesses to their wedding.

"We want this happy moment to be witnessed by great figures in our country," Atta said at a news conference at the Raffles Jakarta hotel.

"We want to show that we're serious about our wedding. So my side of the family is represented by Mr Jokowi, and Aurel's side of the family is represented by Mr Prabowo."

Aurel claimed that Mr Prabowo cut short a trip to Russia to attend their wedding, and Atta's family said House Speaker Bambang Soesatyo came as well as a representative of his family.

While the two newlyweds basked in the spotlight, the Internet and the political scene went into overdrive.

Popular writer and singer Fiersa Besari got the ball rolling when he seemed to criticise Mr Widodo's presence at the wedding, especially as the government has formally banned the annual mudik (exodus to home towns) just before Hari Raya Puasa in May.

"This is a country of paradoxes," Besari tweeted. "Mudik is banned but holiday destinations open together. The roads are closed, but traffic jams are everywhere.

"People aren't allowed to hold wedding parties, but a celebrity's wedding is personally attended by the country's leader. What do I know, I'm just a nobody."

Former maritime affairs and fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti, herself very active on social media, replied to Besari, showering him with crying emojis before stating "sad to read your tweet".

Public health expert Irma Hidayana said the President's attendance was "insensitive" at best and ignorant at worst.

"We' ae still in the middle of a public health emergency. There's no urgency in going to the wedding," Dr Irma said. "His time would've been better spent visiting hospitals to check their readiness, or doing impromptu inspections at the health ministry to ensure that they are ready to distribute the vaccine. There are so many things on his bucket list."

Some have suggested that Mr Widodo's presence at the wedding was a way to curry favour with his young electorate, as Atta has over 27 million followers on YouTube and a ubiquitous social media presence.

Aurel's parents, Mr Anang Hermansyah and Ms Krisdayanti, were both popular singers who entered politics and became members of the House.

Ms Krisdayanti said on her YouTube account that people "shouldn't overreact" to the President and Mr Prabowo's presence.

But said Mr Wisnu Prasetya Utomo, a media observer and lecturer at Gadjah Mada University: "For a year, people have had to sacrifice their weddings, or even had their wedding dispersed by security forces. Suddenly, we see the President and high officials at a big wedding.

"What we see is one rule for the elite and celebrities, and another for the common people."

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