Mon, 07 Aug 2000

A look at the people behind the President's speech

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid is known to be rather eloquent, but he is assessed by the People's Consultative Assembly during its Annual Session could depend on the official content of the progress report he will deliver on Monday morning.

Just who are the people behind the scenes preparing his report?

Minister of Mines and Energy Lt. Gen. (ret) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been recognized as one of the key figures on the team of Cabinet members and scholars preparing the speech.

According to Susilo, in order to stave off controversy the address will avoid details, placing emphasis on general policies.

However, he refused to identify the other members of the team crafting the speech.

"I do not need to disclose their names. What's important is our output," Susilo said.

But sources said top economists Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Faisal Basri had been recruited to the team. They are believed to be in charge of detailing the government's economic record.

Sri Mulyani and Faisal, both members of the National Economics Council, also have been widely tipped to join the new Cabinet which will be formed shortly after the Assembly's session.

Sources also said political scientists Affan Gafar and Andi Mallarangeng, both expert staff to State Minister of Regional Autonomy Ryas Rasyid, were involved in drafting of the President's speech.

Attorney General Marzuki Darusman and Minister of Settlement and Territorial Development Erna Witoelar also participated in preparing the speech.

A relative of the President said on Friday that Abdurrahman had vowed not to be confrontational on Monday.

The President angered members of the House of Representatives last month when he refused to explain during an interpellation hearing the reasons behind his dismissal of Laksamana Sukardi and Yusuf Kalla as investment minister and trade and industry minister, respectively.

"Bapak realizes the confrontation badly tarnished his image. He will convey an honest report which is based on accurate data," said the relative, who is involved in the President's daily activities.

Susilo and Marzuki also were members of a four-man team which drafted the President's written reply and apology following the interpellation session.

The President's speech on Monday, using data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, will try to convince Assembly members that despite political instability, the country is on its way to economic recovery.

According to the bureau's statistics, exports in the first six months of this year jumped 34.95 percent, including a 27.16 percent hike in non-oil and gas exports, compared to the same period last year.

The data shows that exports of machinery, electrical appliances, clothing, processed wood, pulp and children's toys were the most encouraging compared to other commodities.

The President also is expected to unveil the four pillars of the economic recovery program for next year, including the maintenance of macroeconomic stability and the empowerment of those lower on the economic scale.

The progress report itself is expected to be read on Monday morning by Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri on behalf of the President. (prb/byg)