Fri, 18 Aug 2000

Announcement of new Cabinet delayed

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid has decided to delay announcing his new Cabinet until Aug. 24 at the earliest, as he needs to further consult with Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri and other political leaders, Cabinet Secretary Marsilam Simanjuntak said on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with the President at Merdeka Palace, Marsilam said the President's announcement would be made next Thursday or Friday.

"The announcement plan has been changed from Aug. 21 to Aug. 24 or Aug. 25. I think the reason is because the President wants to follow the directives of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) and to seek more advice from leaders of political parties," Marsilam said.

Minister of Settlement and Regional Development Erna Witoelar, along with Minister of Mines and Energy Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and State Minister of Regional Autonomy Ryaas Rasyid, has been assigned to draft the Cabinet lineup.

Erna confirmed Marsilam's statement, saying the President needs more time to lay the Cabinet's framework.

"We also want to promote the concept of Cabinet restructuring to the people and then expect feedback from them," Erna said at Merdeka Palace.

Separately, Ryaas said the new administration would be more streamlined with only 14 ministries. He also stressed that the new Cabinet would focus on efficiency.

"The next Cabinet will have 24 positions, comprising two coordinating ministers and 14 departments, with the remaining as state ministers," he announced on Wednesday.

Ryaas remarked the new Cabinet was designed to be simpler than the one at present to make it more efficient and to avoid an overlapping in ministers' portfolios.

"We will have two coordinating ministers; one handling political affairs and defense, and the other economic and financial affairs," he said, adding that "several departments will be dissolved".

The office of the coordinating minister for people's welfare and poverty eradication will be merged with the coordinating minister for political affairs and security.

Susilo and current Minister of Home Affairs Surjadi Sudirdja have been tipped for the position of coordinating minister for political affairs and security, while Rizal Ramli, the chief of the State Logistics Agency (Bulog), and Dorodjatun Kuntjoro- Jakti, the ambassador to the United States, are nominated for the position of coordinating minister for the economy, finance and industry.

Ryaas said his office would also be dissolved and placed under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

He declined to comment on the rumors that he was a candidate for the position.

"I am not prepared to hold more positions," he joked.

Ryaas said, as in the past, the Ministry of Forestry and Plantations would be dropped to merge with the Ministry of Agriculture, while the State Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports would be fused with the Ministry of National Education.

He said the government would also dissolve the Ministry of Settlement and Regional Development and the State Ministry of Transmigration and Population.

Separately, Susilo also confirmed that there would be a "dramatic" streamlining. He refused to go into detail, but said there would be less than 20 departments.

However, Susilo said the government would not repeat past mistakes by dissolving the ministry of information and ministry of social services in October without adequate preparations to relocate civil servants working there.

The current Cabinet, formed in October, comprises three coordinating ministers, 16 ministers, 13 state ministers, the attorney general, Indonesian Military chief and state secretary.

He also disclosed the government would revitalize the National Economics Council (DEN) and the National Security Council. He did not mention the fate of the National Business Development Council (DPUN).

Susilo did not elaborate on what he meant about the security council as it does not exist.

"There are several councils now, and in the future we will streamline the existing councils," Susilo said on Thursday. (rms/prb)