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Haggling stalls Cabinet making

Jakarta Post - August 3, 2001

Jakarta – The much-awaited Cabinet line-up will not be unveiled until next week, accentuating apparent horse trading among major political parties for key positions and leaving the financial markets bearish.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri met major party leaders at her residence in Central Jakarta on Thursday morning, but they apparently failed to agree on the line-up, prompting the delay in its announcement until next week.

The delay has apparently battered the financial market. The rupiah slid a bit to close at Rp 9,640 against the US dollar on the spot market from Rp 9,630 on Wednesday, while share prices on the Jakarta Stock Exchange dropped by 1.5 percent, with the composite index falling to 436.41 points from 443.19.

Those attending Thursday's breakfast meeting said that the announcement, initially slated for Friday or Saturday, would be postponed until Thursday at the latest, but none of them give any reason as to why it should be delayed.

When elected two weeks ago, Megawati promised to name her Cabinet within days, and the delay has sparked speculation that squabbling among political parties has worsened. Participants at the meeting, however, denied that there was a rift among the coalition of parties supporting Megawati's presidency.

Golkar Party Chairman Akbar Tandjung said after the meeting that the delay would provide sufficient time for each political party to select carefully their candidates and for the President to consider the best ones for the Cabinet. "The main point is we support the new government," Akbar remarked.

Akbar, also Speaker of the House of Representatives, however, indicated his discontent with the delay, saying that Golkar had suggested that Megawati announce the line-up this weekend, but still the President decided to delay it "for unclear reasons."

The chairman of the National Mandate Party, Amien Rais, said the delay simply reflected Megawati's "slow but sure" style.

Meanwhile, caretaker minister of justice and human rights Mahfud MD said that he heard Megawati was angered during the meeting as political parties squabbled over a post in the Cabinet. The political parties, according to Mahfud, demanded to be accommodated proportionally in the Cabinet in accordance with their role in ousting Abdurrahman Wahid and propelling Megawati to the presidency. If political parties continue their squabbling, Mahfud warned, Megawati might turn to the Indonesian Military (TNI), that played a crucial role in her ascension to power, to fill key positions.

The treasurer of Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), Noviantika Nasution, confirmed that the delay was due to "difficult conflicts of interest" among the parties and among PDI Perjuangan executives. "Megawati is being very careful to balance the proportion between candidates from political parties and professionals," Noviantika told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Amien Rais, also Speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly, asked Megawati not to be trapped by the assumption that politicians are not professional in their approach, or that professionals are necessarily politically independent.

"Do not assume that professionals do not have political interests and that political parties do not have technocrats," he said. He said further that some of the meeting participants hoped that a number of ministers in the previous Cabinet would be included in the new one.

However, he suggested that the "old faces", which may be included in the new Cabinet, should be professional, hardworking and capable of performing well. "If there are several old faces it will be OK, but it will create furor if there are too many old faces in the Cabinet. New faces, new platform; that would be better," Amien said after the meeting.

Also present at the meeting were United Development Party (PPP) Chairman Hamzah Haz, who is also the Vice President, Justice and Unity Party (PKP) Chairman Eddy Sudrajat, dismissed National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Matori Abdul Djalil, Crescent Star Party (PBB) chairman Yusril Ihza Mahendra, Justice Party (PK) President Hidayat Nur Wahid, and Assembly deputy speaker from the TNI/National Police faction Hari Sabarno.

Justice Party President Hidayat Nur Wahid underlined that the new Cabinet should be in the hands of people with integrity, honesty and professionalism; so each party should consider that in nominating the candidates.

"Inside the meeting we agreed that we are going to use the current structure, with the addition of the ministry of social affairs and there will be no ministry of information," Hidayat told journalists after the meeting.