APSN Banner

Analysis: Prabowo-Gibran campaign team named as SOE commissioners

Jakarta Post - March 6, 2024

Tenggara Strategics, Jakarta – The longstanding trend of granting key roles in state corporations to supporters of presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls has resurfaced. This time, members of the Prabowo Subianto-Gibran Rakabuming Raka national campaign team (TKN) have been appointed as independent commissioners in state-owned enterprises (SOEs), drawing criticism for alleged political favoritism over merit-based qualifications.

The members of the Prabowo-Gibran TKN are Perindo Party politician Prabu Revolusi and Siti Zahra Aghnia, the wife of Muhammad Arief Rosyid Hasan, who serves as the head of the TKN's youth voter wing. Appointed in February, Prabu has taken the position of independent commissioner for state-owned energy company PT Pertamina's sub-holding PT Kilang Pertamina Internasional, while Siti Zahra is independent commissioner of PT Pertamina Patra Niaga.

The pair's appointment is a stark contrast to the directive given to commissioners of SOEs before the campaign period. During that time, SOEs Minister Erick Thohir had ordered SOE commissioners to resign from their positions if they joined a presidential candidate's campaign team. Erick's special staffer Arya Sinulingga mentioned that the minister had even issued a regulation prohibiting SOE officials from getting involved in politics.

It is worth noting that Prabu and Siti's recent appointments took place while the tabulation of the 2024 Election vote count was still ongoing. Also, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo named Democratic Party chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, a supporter of Prabowo-Gibran, as his agrarian and spatial planning minister. These suggest that Jokowi is facilitating the Prabowo-Gibran team to a smooth transition.

The appointment of these Prabowo-Gibran TKN members as independent commissioners is considered problematic, however, as it is perceived to be rooted in political reciprocity rather than competence and professionalism.

Critics have pointed out that the process of appointing commissioners for SOEs itself creates such loopholes, as there is no requirement to adhere to provisions similar to the appointment of directors, which involves an assessment mechanism by an independent institution. As a result, commissioners appointed by those in power can assume their roles without possessing sufficient competence.

A survey by Transparency International Indonesia shows that as of March 2021, approximately 14.7 percent of commissioner positions in SOEs were filled by individuals with backgrounds ranging from presidential candidate volunteers to political party members. Furthermore, 51.6 percent were occupied by civil servants representing the government as SOE shareholders. Meanwhile, only 17.6 percent consisted of professionals.

With commissioners bearing the responsibility of overseeing the activities and operations of their respective SOEs offering advice to the board of directors under Law No. 40/2007 on limited liability companies and Law No. 19/2003 on SOEs, analysts believe that competence and professionalism are crucial to ensure the sustainability and well-being of SOEs, as the performance of commissioners is deemed to correlate with the performance of the respective SOEs.

What's more

When an SOE experiences losses, observers note that the government will bear the impact. The government has already experienced such kinds of impacts, evident in their repeated injection of fresh capital into SOEs facing losses, as seen in cases like flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, insurer Jiwasraya, state-owned construction companies, plantation companies and many more.

Furthermore, reports indicate that the lack of good governance stemming from these targeted appointments may lead to inefficiencies in the SOEs' operations, a suboptimal role of SOEs in the economy, and even potential corruption.

The practice of distributing key positions was often observed during President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's two terms. Similar to members of the Prabowo-Gibran TKN, several of Jokowi's supporters secured positions as commissioners at SOEs.

For instance, Abdi "Abdee" Negara Nurdin, the lead guitarist of the rock band Slank, who campaigned for Jokowi in the 2014 and 2019 elections, was appointed as an independent commissioner at telecommunications firm PT Telkomsel. He resigned earlier this year to campaign for Ganjar Pranowo. Another instance is labor activist Andi Gani Nena Wea, who served as the chairman of a Jokowi volunteer group. Andi was appointed as the president commissioner of PT Pembangunan Perumahan during Jokowi's second term.

According to Indonesia Corruption Watch, in 2022 alone, a total of 46 supporters of Jokowi-Ma'ruf from the 2019 elections were recorded to have secured positions as commissioners in SOEs.

Furthermore, in Jokowi's case, this practice has extended to his cabinet. Jokowi, who has demonstrated increasing support for Prabowo and his running mate Gibran, Jokowi's eldest son, recently reshuffled his cabinet to welcome Democratic Party chairman Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono as agrarian and spatial planning minister.

Previously, the Democratic Party positioned itself among the opposition parties by nominating Anies Baswedan in his presidential bid, hoping that Agus would run as his vice-presidential candidate. However, when National Awakening Party (PKB) leader Muhaimin "Cak Imin" Iskandar was chosen as Anies' running mate over Agus, the Democratic Party shifted to back Prabowo's presidential bid. As a result, the inclusion of Agus in Jokowi's cabinet is perceived as Jokowi rewarding the Democratic Party for its involvement in the alliance that supported Prabowo and his son Gibran.

What we've heard

Several sources mention Prabu Revolusi's appointment as a commissioner at Pertamina Kilang Internasional was due to his connections with Minister of State-Owned Enterprises, Erick Thohir. Prabu's name had previously been mentioned as a member of the task force charged with boosting Erick's image, long before the designation of presidential and vice-presidential candidates in the 2024 election.

As a public official, Erick is also said to have a strong desire to become a vice-presidential candidate. Erick was disappointed with Prabu's political choice, aligning himself with the successful team of the third-ranked pair, Ganjar-Mahfud.

Prabu's appointment as a commissioner sparked discussions among Ganjar-Mahfud's success team. This is because Prabu was fired from the 03 success team for being considered underqualified. Fired from the 03 success team, Prabu joined the success team of the Prabowo-Gibran pair.

Meanwhile, the selection of Siti Zahra Aghnia as an independent commissioner of PT Pertamina Patra Niaga is similar to Prabu's case. Siti Zahra is the wife of Arief Rosyid Hasan, the commander of TKN Fanta. Moreover, Arief has long been close to Erick Thohir. That's why Arief was appointed as one of the commissioners at BSI. Not long after that appointment, Arief was briefly involved in a case of signature forgery.

Other sources say that the appointment of Prabu and Siti Zahra is part of Erick's plan to include the names of success team members as commissioners of state-owned enterprises. In total, the list has the name of around a dozen people. According to one source, the selection of these two names has stirred up controversy within the 02 volunteer community, especiallya regarding the appointment of Arief's wife.

[This content is provided by Tenggara Strategics in collaboration with The Jakarta Post to serve the latest comprehensive and reliable analysis on Indonesia's political and business landscape.]

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/03/06/analysis-prabowo-gibran-campaign-team-named-as-soe-commissioners.htm