JAKARTA • As Indonesia ramps up relief efforts to quake-ravaged Central Sulawesi, politicians from different parties are making it clear that politics has taken a backseat to the task at hand.
Campaign season for the 2019 elections started on Sept 23, but presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto and his running mate Sandiaga Uno yesterday declared that their team will bring campaign activities to a temporary halt.
Mr Prabowo said during a press conference that the national committee behind the Prabowo-Sandiaga ticket stands ready to help the government with relief efforts, and is prepared to offer volunteers, including doctors.
"We are ready to help the government as much as we can. Pak Sandi and I are ready whenever the government calls for our help," he said, referring to Mr Sandiaga.
Mr Prabowo, a former army general who was defeated in the 2014 presidential election, said the party's leadership will gather as soon as possible and raise funds and aid to be deployed to the provincial capital of Palu and devastated Donggala regency.
"I don't want to politicise (the issue)," he said, adding: "It is better to provide aid through one channel, and that is the government of the Republic of Indonesia."
Victims in the disaster zones would benefit more from receiving food and blankets instead of visits from prominent national figures, he said, though adding that he may himself make a trip to the quake-hit areas in the days ahead.
President Joko Widodo - who is seeking re-election in the April 2019 polls - on Sunday visited parts of Palu, which was devastated last Friday by the magnitude-7.4 quake that triggered a tsunami. He assured victims that no effort would be spared in helping them to get back on the road to recovery.
Former president and Democrat Party chairman Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had called on the presidential hopefuls to suspend their campaigns in the wake of the disaster.
"I think the time has come to show our solidarity with our brothers and sisters, and together assist the government in disaster mitigation," Dr Yudhoyono said in a video that he posted on Twitter on Sunday.
Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan yesterday launched a public appeal and opened City Hall as a collection point for aid for the quake victims.
"We have prepared the place so that it is easier for the public to donate," said Mr Anies.
Indonesia's Speaker of Parliament Bambang Soesatyo had previously urged the government, military and police to reinforce rescue operations in Central Sulawesi, reported Tempo news.
Expressing concern on behalf of MPs, he noted that many people in Palu and Donggala who needed medical assistance were being treated in open spaces on account of fears that aftershocks would cause more buildings to collapse.
"The relief teams should immediately try to address this need," said the Golkar Party politician.