Fri, 23 Jun 2000

Ministers accept Cabinet shake-up

JAKARTA (JP): With the Cabinet revamp countdown ticking on, ministers expressed no resistance to their destiny on Thursday.

Some of them exhibited traces of tension before and after attending the weekly Cabinet meeting presided over by President Abdurrahman Wahid at Bina Graha presidential office.

Abdurrahman has repeatedly hinted another shake-up in his Cabinet, after sacking five ministers within just seven months of his tenure.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab even boasted on Thursday that he was ready to be jailed if he was found guilty of committing a crime.

"I can spend my days by reading the Koran during my imprisonment," Alwi said and burst into laughter.

Minister of Law and Legislation Yusril Ihza Mahendra just replied: "No problem," when asked how he would feel if the President asked him to leave his post.

He reminded journalists that he had once tendered his resignation to the President following allegations that, in his capacity as the chairman of the Crescent and Star Party (PBB), he received Rp 1 billion from then president B.J. Habibie to finance his election campaign.

Citing an old saying, State Minister of Cooperatives, Small and Medium Enterprises Zarkasih Nur, emphasized there was a time to come and a time to leave.

"As I was ready to be appointed, I am also ready to be discharged," said Zarkasih before attending the Cabinet meeting.

Zarkasih is the only remaining minister representing the United Development Party (PPP) in the Cabinet.

The party chairman, Hamzah Haz, was the first minister to lose his seat in the Cabinet. Abdurrahman sacked Hamzah only one month after his appointment as coordinating minister for people's welfare and poverty alleviation.

Speaking to journalists Tuesday in Cairo, Abdurrahman insisted that he would dismiss the representatives of political parties in the Cabinet in August, shortly after the People's Consultative Assembly annual meeting.

The President complained that many of the ministers are more loyal to their parties than to him as the head of state.

"After being appointed cabinet ministers, they must abandon party interests, and work for the sake of the country," Zarkasih commented about Abdurrahman's remark.

When the Cabinet was formed in October, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), which topped the votes table in last year's general election, placed four cadre -- Kwik Kian Gie as the coordinating minister for the economy, finance and industry, Laksamana Sukardi as state minister of investment and state enterprises development, M. Prakosa as minister of agriculture, and Soni Keraf as state minister of environment -- in the Cabinet.

PDI Perjuangan lost Laksamana late in April, while Golkar saw Yusuf Kalla dismissed as minister of industry and trade.

Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung, who is also speaker of the House, promoted four colleagues, including Attorney General Marzuki Darusman and State Minister of Youths Affairs and Sports Mahadi Sinambela.

"Do you have any choice?" Mahadi replied when journalists asked what he would do if the President dismissed him.

The National Mandate Party chairman Amien Rais has been able to retain three party members in the Cabinet, including Minister of Finance Bambang Sudibyo and Minister of National Education Yahya Muhaimin.

"I am ready to face all possibilities. Why should I worry?" Bambang said on the sidelines of a hearing with the House of Representatives.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) has five senior inactive officers in charge as ministers. They are Minister of Home Affairs Lt. Gen. (ret.) Surjadi Soedirdja, Minister of Mines and Energy Lt. Gen. (ret) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Minister of Transportation Lt. Gen. (ret) Agum Gumelar, State Minister of Administrative Reform Vice Adm. (ret) Freddy Numberi and the Indonesian Military Chief Admiral Widodo A.S..

The military lost Gen. (ret.) Wiranto as coordinating minister in February but earned another ministerial post when Lt. Gen. (ret.) Luhut Panjaitan was appointed in April to replace Kalla.

Abdurrahman, the National Mandate Party (PKB) co-founder, even added to his four-member team, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab, and State Minister of Women Affairs Khofifah Indar Parawansa, to five, with the promotion of Rozy Munir as Laksamana's successor.

"If the President decides to dismiss me, it means he makes his best decision," Khofifah said about her possible dismissal. (prb)