Wed, 05 Mar 2003

House finishes envoy exams

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The House of Representatives (DPR) Commission II overseeing foreign affairs wrapped up its review of 19 ambassadorial candidates on Tuesday, with traces of disappointment evident on the faces of commission members.

Although legislators refused to disclose the results of the assessment, some commission members acknowledged they were upset by the candidates' performance during the selection hearings.

"There are some candidates who should be shifted to another country destination. The decision should be made to align challenges with the candidates' competence," commission chairman Ibrahim Ambong told the press here on Tuesday.

Four ambassadorial candidates were grilled on the final day of examination on Tuesday: Juwono Sudarsono, nominated for the posting in Britain; Abdullah Syarwani, nominated for Lebanon; Cornelis Manoppo, nominated for Venezuela; and Sukarni Fikar, nominated for Syria.

Of the total 19 candidates, four are figures from outside the foreign affairs ministry.

Under the amended 1945 Constitution, the President has the prerogative to appoint ambassadors, but he or she should consider any recommendations from the legislators. The extended selection process has drawn complaints from the foreign ministry for causing many ambassadorial posts to remain vacant longer.

Commission member Djoko Susilo said only four to five candidates from the ministry were eligible for the ambassadorial post. Legislators reached a consensus to approve 10 to 11 other candidates for reasons of empathy rather than quality, he added.

"Only 30 percent of those candidates are really qualified," Djoko added.

Based on their assessment, the legislators will ask the foreign affairs ministry to evaluate each? candidacy and propose an equal number of candidates from the ministry and outside it.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri ignored the objection of legislators to the nomination of Irsan Abdul Gani for Japan, because of his advanced age.

The president instead inaugurated Irsan last month, promptly drawing protests from legislators. Some dejected lawmakers proposed to boycott the future examination process, but a consultation meeting between the legislators and Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda could quell the dispute.