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Coronavirus: Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo urges his Gerindra party to stand behind the government

Straits Times - April 23, 2020

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Jakarta – Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, once a bitter rival of President Joko Widodo, has appealed to his political party to support the government and refrain from fault-finding as the country grapples with the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Prabowo, who twice challenged Mr Joko in the presidential election, reminded Gerindra party members that it was in the ruling coalition.

"I have always said, political opponents are not enemies. Political opponents are our brothers and sisters too. Whatever happened, we must not have disunity," he said in an 18-minute address posted on his Facebook account.

"Since the past six months, Gerindra has been part of the government, part of the ruling coalition," he said, adding that the decision to join the government was a big one taken for the greater good which was unity and reconciliation.

Mr Prabowo surprised political observers when he decided to join the Cabinet late last year and his appeal for unity comes as Gerindra cadres recently stepped up criticism of the government as the number of coronavirus mounts in the world's fourth most populous country.

On April 12, a senior party official, Mr Fadli Zon, questioned the government's attitude on a recent US$4.3 billion (S$6 billion) bond sale, the proceeds of which were meant to help meet unanticipated spending towards mitigating the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.

"I was amazed hearing Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati's statement on the global bond sale, which she took pride in," Mr Fadli said, adding that any government official should have been ashamed for raising the country's debt.

Mr Fadli's remarks ran against independent observers who praised the Indonesian government's ability to access the overseas debt market and raise funds despite an uncertain global financial situation amid the pandemic.

In the video on Facebook, Mr Prabowo apologised to Gerindra members for not communicating with them for months. He praised Mr Joko, saying the president had always prioritised the welfare of the poor and weak.

"During the time I have been a Cabinet member, I can testify that he consistently has been fighting for the interest of the state and the nation," Mr Prabowo said.

He added that Mr Joko always prioritised the welfare of the poor and weak. Mr Prabowo said critics of the government should provide constructive input instead of finding faults.

Indonesia went through two bitter and divisive presidential polls in 2014 and 2019 as both had only two contenders, Mr Joko and Mr Prabowo. The former army general lost by an even bigger margin on the second occasion.

Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/coronavirus-indonesian-defence-minister-prabowo-subianto-tells-his-gerindra-party-to