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Habibie's cabinet

DIGEST No. 61 - May 16, 1998

Habibie's position fell to him as a result of intra-elite manoeuvreing. It was hardly a victory for people's power. Consequently, his cabinet is by no means revolutionary or even strongly reformist in policy terms. It remains a New Order creation. None of the most prominent among the opposition figures of recent months are included in it.

Nevertheless he has introduced many new especially Islamic faces, removed some of the more nepotistic Suharto appointments, and retained some talented figures from the previous cabinet.

The two main competing agendas - conflicting to some extent - are domestic political reform, and economic reform to satisfy the IMF and international markets. On both fronts Habibie should make some gains over Suharto, though on neither will the moves be enough to satisfy those demanding big changes.

On domestic reform he has moved some way towards popular demands. The two most obvious cronies are gone - Suharto's daughter Tutut and his wealthy golfing partner Bob Hasan.

Most of the new faces are drawn from the broadly Islamic wing of urban middle class civil society. This will win the cabinet support there. Indeed this list may have been the one that Habibie was pushing for when Suharto was lining up his March cabinet. At that time Habibie lost out to the influence of Suharto's daughter Tutut. In that sense this cabinet is a factional bureaucratic one, rather than a broad-based and popular reform cabinet.

For the first time in a New Order cabinet there are representatives from the non-Golkar minority parties PPP (United Development Party) and PDI (Indonesian Democratic Party).

New faces closely associated with the Islamic group ICMI include:

Adi Sasono (Cooperatives), secretary of Habibie/ ICMI think tank Cides, strong Habibie supporter with links to NGO movement.

Malik Fajar (Religion), presently in charge of Islamic section of Religion, respected academic, rector of Muhammadiyah University in Malang, put forward to replace Amien Rais within ICMI after the latter's resignation.

More broadly Islamic are:

Fahmi Idris (Manpower), Generation of '66 activist, former HMI member, son-in-law of Islamic leader Hasan Basri, heads Kodel (Kongsi Delapan) Group - indigenous businessmen given a hand up by government.

Hamzah Haz (Investment), Islamic PPP parliamentarian popular for outspoken opposition to cronyism and corruption. The first member ever appointed to a New Order cabinet from the minority parties.

Prof HAM Saefuddin (Food), German-trained Habibie supporter, PPP parliamentarian, one of two PPP members in cabinet. On the record as supporting regulations requiring cabinet members to expose their personal wealth.

Muslim Nasution (Forestry & Plantations), on the ICMI Board but regarded as closer to Ginanjar.

The only attempt at embracing secular nationalist opinion is clumsy. Panangian Siregar (Environment) is a PDI parliamentarian, but not Megawati's PDI, and therefore will not be popular. He is the subject of a Megawati lawsuit now running in the courts.

The secular wing of the opposition is poorly represented. Emil Salim would have been the perfect choice there but he is missing. This will certainly fail to satisfy that wing of the opposition, although a lot will depend on their determination from here on to redefine their agenda after Suharto stepped down.

There is a stronger military presence than before. Five serving officers are there, one more than before, including the politically sensitive posts of Interior and Information. This makes the cabinet look almost like a military-Islamic alliance. Besides Feisal Tanjung, Wiranto, and Hendropriyono retained from the previous cabinet, two new faces are:

Junus Yosfiah (Information), Kassospol ABRI and head of ABRI fraction in MPR.

Syarwan Hamid (Interior), replacing Hartono, also military but closely associated with Suharto's family.

In addition, Juwono Sudarsono (Education), formerly Environment, is a conservative intellectual, not military but close to them.

The five key domestic positions are the Interior Minister, Information, Religion, Justice, and Education. Three are filled by conservative or hardline figures out of touch with popular demands for reform.

Syarwan Hamid, a military man, as Interior Minister will provoke derision in opposition ranks. Indonesians remember him not for punching the air in support of Suharto's resignation last Monday but for being the brains behind Megawati's ouster in mid- 1996. That event was probably the trigger for the almost constant political unrest since then.

Juwono Sudarsono as Education will not please students.

Junus Yosfiah for Information puts an East Timor veteran best known for shooting dead Resistance leader Nikolau Lobato into an important post that controls the media.

The Religion post (Malik Fajar) and Justice (Muladi) are popular appointments and will boost support for Habibie if they can follow through their energetic reform agendas.

On economic reform the cabinet looks a little better. Bambang Subianto replaces Fuad Bawazier as Finance Minister. While both were Finance Department officials, Bawazier was seen as personally close to Suharto's business interests. Subianto was in charge of bank restructuring until Suharto sacked him last March even though he was doing a good job at the time. His appointment to this key position will be welcomed by the international financial community.

Retaining Ginanjar in the role of Coordinating Minister for Finance and Economy will also fall in good soil with the IMF. Ginanjar understands the global economic environment yet is keenly aware of the national interest. He has played an increasingly crucial role in recent months and should be watched as a potential presidential candidate if Habibie does not hold his own.

Among the minor or technical posts, new faces include:

Agung Laksono (Sport & Youth), parliamentary Golkar fraction chairman, Emil Salim supporter, Kosgoro leader, part-owner of ANTeve television broadcaster, financial backer of Target news tabloid, has been criticised by democracy activists for editorial interference in both media.

Zuhal Abdulkodir (Research & Technology), deputy head of Habibie's technical empire BPPT, former director at electricity board PLN fired because of his opposition to Tutut's investment strategy in power generation.

Soleh Solahudin (Agriculture), rector ITB.

Marzuki Usman (Tourism), Finance Dept official, replaces Abdul Latief, who resigned from Suharto's cabinet in that post & was not called back. Respected chairman of Indonesian Economists Association.

Yustika Syarifuddin Baharsyah (Social Affairs), replaces Suharto's daughter Tutut. Formerly Agriculture. One of two women in cabinet.

Akbar Tanjung (State Secretary), presently Housing, Generation of '66; Replaces Saadilah who was tainted by association with Suharto projects.

Hasan Basri Durin (Land), former West Sumatra governor.

Theo Sambuaga (Housing), Golkar parliamentarian, close to Tutut, possibly the only Protestant, formerly Labour.

Ida Bagus Oka (Population & Family Planning), formerly governor of Bali, enjoys a poor reputation among many Balinese for his close relationship with property interests.

Budiono (Development Planning Board = Bappenas), possibly the former director of Bank Indonesia, dismissed in March during battles between the Bank of Indonesia and President Suharto over a currency board.

Retained are all four Coordinating Ministers (Gen Feisal Tanjung as Coord Min Security & Politics, Ginanjar Kartasasmita as Coord Min Fin & Ec, Hartarto for Development, and Haryono for Health). Ali Alatas stays in Foreign Affairs and will bring stability there. Gen Wiranto stays as armed forces commander and as Defence Minister. Prof Muladi, a keen reformer, stays as Justice Minister. Rachmadi stays in Works. Giri Suseno, a Habibie man and respected engineer, stays on in Transport. Hendropriyono (military) stays as Transmigration. Farid Muluk stays as Health (Emil Salim supporter). Tutty Alawiyah stays for Women (respected, Islamic). Rahardi Ramelan takes on Trade & Industry (Habibie man, formerly Research & Technology). Kuntoro stays as Mines & Energy (Ginanjar man).

[Gerry van Klinken, editor, 'Inside Indonesia' magazine]