Plenty of Names Pop Up as Reshuffle Buzz Grows Louder
Jakarta. Indonesia’s leaders have given conflicting signals on whether a reshuffle is in the cards, amid mounting dissatisfaction among the public and politicians with members of the cabinet.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla said on Monday that a reshuffle was imminent.
“Yes, it will happen in the near future,” he said in response to questions from reporters at his office.
He was quick to add, however, that he had not yet discussed the matter with President Joko Widodo, but said he believed “it will happen in due time when we feel it’s needed.”
Kalla conceded that some members of the cabinet had not performed as well as hoped, but declined to identify them.
“We need to improve our performance a lot, so we need people who are capable,” he said.
Questioned separately at the State Palace, however, Joko indicated he knew nothing about a planned reshuffle.
“Huh? What?” he told a pack of reporters when asked to confirm Kalla’s statement, before adding, “You should go ask the vice president about that.”
As the Joko administration marks half a year in office, politicians and observers have begun singling out ministers they believe have underperformed or who have prioritized the interests of their parties over those of the state.
Kedai Kopi, a discussion group of influential political analysts, last week cited three ministers it argued had failed to meet the briefs of their portfolios: Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman, Industry Minister Saleh Husin, and Sofyan Djalil, the coordinating minister for the economy.
The first two are political appointees – Amran was a fund-raiser for Joko’s election campaign and has business ties with Kalla; Saleh is a member of a party in Joko’s coalition – while Sofyan has come in for criticism over a series of economic policies deemed unpopular and protectionist, and a general slowdown in the economy.
Sofyan, however, has defended his performance in office, saying the less-than-stellar macroeconomic factors are beyond his control.
“It’s always difficult when the economy’s rough,” he said at the vice president’s office on Monday. “Whoever’s in the position of coordinating minister for the economy is always in the most difficult place because of the tough economic conditions.”
He also argued that unpopular economic policies pushed through by the administration were necessary for long-term growth, including the scrapping of a decades-old subsidy for gasoline, with the trillions of rupiah in savings going toward infrastructure development and other programs.
“There are a lot of good policies that are unpopular, and ending the gasoline subsidy was one of them,” Sofyan said.
Opposition to some of the ministers has also come from politicians. Justice Minister Yasonna Laoly, in particular, has drawn the ire of the opposition bloc at the House of Representatives for siding with factions of two opposition parties – Golkar and the United Development Party – that have pledged their allegiance to Joko’s coalition.
Yasonna, a stalwart of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which nominated Joko in last year’s election, is also widely seen as being among the PDI-P cabinet members more loyal to party chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri than to the president.
Opposition legislators say his recent refusal to swear in a new chief of the immigration department, flouting a presidential instruction issued in December, is grounds for Joko to drop Yasonna from the cabinet.
“The president must summon Yasonna to demand an explanation,” Aziz Syamsuddin, the chairman of House Commission III, which oversees legal affairs, said on Monday. “If he refuses to comply, the president has the authority to fire him.”
Aziz, from Golkar, added that “The minister has a duty to the president, not to his party.”
But if Megawati has her way, the PDI-P will get yet another of its members appointed to the cabinet in the reshuffle, according to a high-level source in the party.
The source, who asked not to be identified, said the party planned to put Pramono Anung, its secretary general and Megawati’s number two, in a position where he would be close to Joko on a daily basis.
“Pram will be assisting Joko on a day-to-day basis. He will be close to Joko and at the same time close to Megawati,” the source told the Jakarta Globe on Monday.
The source did not specify which position the PDI-P was eyeing for Pramono, but indications are that the party is gunning for the seat of state secretary, a ministerial-level post currently held by close Joko adviser Andi Widjajanto. Party insiders have long grumbled about the outsize influence Andi wields over the president, to the detriment of Megawati’s own counsel, and have publicly branded him a “traitor” and “a new kid trying to run this country.”
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Source: The Jakarta Globe