Mon, 21 Aug 2000

Gus Dur, Megawati meet to draft new Cabinet

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid, Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri and three ministers tasked to draft the makeup of the new Cabinet met on Sunday.

There were no clues about the results of the meeting, however, from either Abdurrahman or Megawati, who later in the day attended a dinner hosted by Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab.

"Just wait for the official announcement," Abdurrahman, better known as Gus Dur, told reporters as he walked to his waiting car after the dinner.

House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung and Deputy Speakers of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Matori Abdul Djalil and Husni Thamrin were also present at the gathering. MPR Speaker Amien Rais failed to attend as he was still in Yogyakarta.

Alwi, who is also the President's close confidant, said the meeting on the Cabinet line-up took place at Megawati's official residence on Jl. Diponegoro, Central Jakarta.

"They met from about 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., but I can tell you nothing because I haven't heard anything," Alwi said.

It was the first meeting that involved the Vice President since the President named the three ministers -- Minister of Mines and Energy Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, State Minister of Regional Autonomy Ryaas Rasyid and Minister of Settlement and Territorial Development Erna Witoelar -- on Thursday to draft the structure of the Cabinet.

The three ministers did not come to the evening gathering which was held to celebrate the peaceful proceeding of the MPR Annual Session.

Alwi said his three colleagues were still "doing their homework".

"There is a possibility that the three could not attend (the dinner) because of things that need changing regarding the structure of the Cabinet," Alwi said.

He said the three ministers are expected to complete their work on Monday, four days before the President is slated to unveil his new Cabinet.

Abdurrahman has hinted that he would streamline his Cabinet to a maximum of 25 ministers, compared to the current 35. He said the final say over the structure and the lineup of the new Cabinet would remain in his hands.

There have been demands for the President to pick ministers who have political roots in parties that won substantial votes in the last election. The President said earlier that 60 percent of the new Cabinet would consist of professionals, while the remaining 40 percent would be selected from candidates proposed by political parties.

Alwi said the gathering at his house was held to express gratitude that the MPR Annual Session had ended "smoothly".

Abdurrahman's supporters had earlier feared that the session would be used to unseat the President. Tension between the Assembly members and the President significantly subsided, however, after Abdurrahman decided to hand over the technical day-to-day running of the government to Megawati.

Meanwhile, economist Faisal Basri expected that members of the new Cabinet, especially the coordinating minister for finance, industry and trade and the minister of finance could create harmonized policies.

"The coordinating minister and the finance minister should also be people who are accepted by markets," Faisal, who is also deputy chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN), said in Semarang, Central Java, on Saturday.

He hoped that the lineup of the new Cabinet would not shake both domestic and international market players.

On the eligibility of ministerial candidates, Faisal said it did not matter whether the nominees were linked to political parties or not, as long as they had clear visions of their policies, including privatization programs.

"The candidates should not have substantial differences on the privatization issue," Faisal remarked. (har/dja/byg/jun)