Sat, 22 Jan 2000

Baihaki tipped as new Pertamina boss after Palace visit

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman 'Gus Dur' Wahid invited the former president of PT Caltex Pacific Indonesia, Baihaki Hakim, for a face-to-face talk on the oil business at Merdeka palace on Friday, raising speculations that the President was considering appointing him as the new leader of state oil and gas company Pertamina.

Gus Dur summoned Baihaki to his office for a brief talk after a meeting with the executives of Caltex.

Baihaki said the talk did not pertain to his nomination for the top job at Pertamina.

"The President asked me about my vision of the oil business as someone who has long been active in the oil industry... We discussed investment, for instance. The talk is still about general topics," Baihaki told reporters after the talk.

He said he would not reject being appointed as a new leader of Pertamina.

"If I'm asked whether I am ready (to lead Pertamina), I will say 'I'm ready.' Above all, if I am ordered, I will do so," Baihaki said.

Baihaki, who retired as Caltex's president on Jan. 1 of this year, is one of the eight candidates proposed by Pertamina's board of commissioners for Pertamina's top job replacing Martiono Hadianto.

Other names proposed by the board are legislator Arifin Panigoro of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI- Perjuangan); legislator Hatta Radjasa of the National Mandate Party (PAN); the president of state tin mining company PT Timah, Erry Riyana Hardjapamekas; the president of state gas company PT PGN, Abdul Qoyum Tjandranegara; former Minister of Finance Bambang Subianto, and the director general of oil and gas at the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Rachmat Sudibyo.

Caltex's president commissioner Harun Al Rasyid, who was among the Caltex executives paying a courtesy call to Gus Dur on Friday, said Baihaki was known for his professionalism and was capable of leading Pertamina.

Several of Pertamina's officials considered Baihaki as "too westernized" in his view of the oil business, fearing that under his leadership of Pertamina, foreign companies would increase their domination of the country's oil and gas sector.

Gus Dur earlier said he wanted a new leader for Pertamina who is honest, capable of managing the state company transparently, and knowledgeable about the international oil business cartel.

Pertamina has been consistently rocked by corruption scandals since its establishment in the 1960s.

The country's largest and most strategic company has previously been a lucrative cash cow for the cronies and family of former President Soeharto throughout his 32-year corrupt regime.

Other Caltex executives who joined the courtesy call were Caltex's president Humayunbosha; president of Chevron Services Co. LE Lekins, and the president of Texaco Worldwide E&P Operations. Caltex is a joint venture of American oil and gas companies Chevron and Texaco. (jsk)