Yustinus Paat & BTV, Jakarta – News reports have said over the past week that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo may reshuffle a number of cabinet members and he didn't deny this when asked the question by journalists on Sunday.
Speculative reports said that the president often picked a certain day to announce cabinet shakeup, namely on a Wednesday that superimposes the Javanese day of Pon – the third day of the five-day weekly cycle in the Javanese calendar.
The Wednesday-Pon day arrives again this week after a cycle that lasts 35 days.
"Really? The Wednesday-Pon day? Okay let's wait," the president replied when asked if he will announce new cabinet members on that particular day.
Rumors about an imminent shakeup have emerged since the National Democratic Party, or Nasdem, announced former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan as its presidential candidate for 2024, a move that many interpreted as the party's departure from the pro-government coalition.
Anies has been widely perceived as an opposition figure to Jokowi since he was fired from the education minister post in the early years of Jokowi's first presidential term.
In 2017, Anies defeated Jokowi's close friend Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in the heated Jakarta gubernatorial election.
Nasdem currently has three members in the Jokowi cabinet, including Communication and IT Minister Johnny Plate, Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo, and Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya.
The president met with Nasdem Chairman Surya Paloh early this month but he declined to answer when asked if the meeting discussed the replacement of Nasdem ministers.
"What makes you so curious?" Jokowi replied to journalists after attending a ceremony to mark the start of Indonesia's chairmanship of ASEAN at the Hotel Indonesia Turnabout in Central Jakarta.
Since he took office in 2014, Jokowi, a native of Central Java, has picked a Wednesday to announce cabinet shakeup at least seven times – three of which coincided with the Javanese day of Pon and another three on the second day of the five-day-long Javanese week called Pahing.
Several ministerial posts are reserved for the leaders of political parties in the government coalition, and National Development Planning Minister Suharso Monoarfa has been in hot water since he lost the chairmanship of the United Development Party (PPP) last year following an internal feud.
And of course, ministers are sometimes judged on individual merit.
Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan is rumored to face a dismissal amid past and current problems such as cooking oil shortage, rice import controversies, and his personal conduct.
Going into his first month in office last July, Zulkifli already drew public inquiry after he took his daughter to an official event in which he promoted government-subsidized cooking oil products.
He reportedly told the crowd attending the event to get cheap cooking oil to vote for the daughter in the 2024 legislative election.
Asked on Sunday about his possible discharge from the cabinet, Zulkifli replied: "The reshuffle is the president's business, mine is to deal with rice, chilies, onions, eggs, and chickens."