Sat, 15 May 2004

Megawati urged to fill vacant jobs in cabinet

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta

For the sake of the Cabinet's performance, President Megawati Soekarnoputri has every reason to fill vacant ministerial posts with permanent replacements, although her administration's term will end in less than five months.

"Everybody wants to be a minister, and Indonesia has numerous suitable people for the position, but she (Megawati) doesn't want to recruit them," National Mandate Party legislator Alvin Lie told a discussion here on Friday.

He said, despite the fact that her days as president were numbered, Megawati's administration should ensure that public services would not be affected by the resignation of ministers.

Megawati, he added, lacked seriousness in dealing with national matters and this was reflected in her reluctance to appoint permanent replacements for resigning ministers.

The President has named interim ministers, whose workloads are already heavy, to take over from senior ministers Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Jusuf Kalla. Another minister, Agum Gumelar, has joined the presidential race, but not yet quit the Cabinet.

"It is Megawati's prerogative to appoint new ministers or not, but she has the obligation to make sure public services in the next five months of her tenure will not be harmed," he said.

Deputy House speaker Muhaimin Iskandar of the National Awakening Party concurred, saying the absence of political courage was one of Megawati's main weaknesses, and her administration would have achieved significant progress in the past few years if she had shown strong leadership.

According to him, the next five months would be enough time for Megawati to win back people's support for her presidential bid.

"Megawati still has five months to make strategic policies to win the hearts and minds of the people, but she has been busy inaugurating development projects that could be manipulated to raise funds for her presidential bid," he said.

Megawati, who has named the leader of the country's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, Hasyim Muzadi, her running mate, will be facing a strong challenge from Wiranto and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, from the Golkar Party and the Democrat Party respectively.

Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, a political analyst at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), expressed his disappointment over Megawati's indifference to the performance of her administration.

"The people would be behind her if she appointed permanent replacements for all resigning or sick ministers," he said.

According to him, the President should appoint replacements for communications minister Agum, defense minister Matori Abdul Djalil and justice minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra because their portfolios were strategic.

"The nation is in urgent need of a replacement for Agum, who has to resign due to his vice presidential candidacy. A new defense minister is also needed to replace ailing Matori, and to help solve the poor relations between the defense ministry and the Indonesian Military.

"Yusril should be replaced to prevent him from posing any trouble to Megawati's government, because he, and his party, has supported the pair of Susilo and Kalla," he said.

Ikrar was of the same opinion, that it was the right moment for Megawati -- and politically valid -- to introduce strategic policies to win the people's support for her reelection.