Tue, 21 Nov 2000

Ministers told to delay overseas trips

JAKARTA (JP): Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri has forbidden all Cabinet ministers from making overseas trips in December.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Alwi Shihab said on Monday after a Cabinet meeting at Bina Graha presidential office, presided over by Megawati, that the order had been issued "a few days ago". He was not specific on the date.

Without elaborating, Alwi said the instruction was made to help ministers concentrate on domestic matters.

The order has also forced some Cabinet ministers to delay a planned meeting with Australian counterparts prior to a landmark visit by President Abdurrahman Wahid to the neighboring country in January.

"Many problems at home involving the ministers need to be solved. So it is most likely that the ministerial meeting will be postponed," Alwi said.

The Indonesia-Australia ministerial meeting, which had been postponed twice by Indonesia, was due to be attended by Alwi and four other ministers, including Coordinating Minister for the Economy Rizal Ramli and Junior Minister of the Acceleration of Development in Eastern Indonesia Manuel Kaisiepo.

Alwi said the President would postpone his visit to Australia until February, following the delay of the meeting.

"This is because there are more pressing matters at home. I think they (the Australians) will understand," Alwi said.

Following the Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly in October, Megawati was empowered with day-to-day government duties.

Abdurrahman was absent from the Cabinet meeting as he was scheduled to begin medical treatment later in the day.

Acting presidential secretary Mujib Manan said the President "will undergo treatment until Wednesday and he will not receive any guests other than very important people."

Manan said treatment would be conducted under the supervision of the President's private doctors at Merdeka Palace. He gave no further details.

The President called an unscheduled media conference on Friday, a day after he arrived from a six-day trip to Qatar and Brunei, to clarify he was in good health, except for a mild case of the flu.

He underwent a brief medical examination on Saturday, officials said.

Manan said this would not change the President's plan to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Singapore on Thursday.

Abdurrahman underwent a regular heart and blood pressure checkup on Oct. 30 at Harapan Kita Cardiac Hospital following the recommendation of his physicians. The doctors gave him a clean bill of health. (byg)