Sat, 04 Aug 2001

Observers: Focus should be on forming effective government

JAKARTA (JP): Political observers warned on Friday that President Megawati Soekarnoputri should focus on forming an effective government rather than letting herself be constrained by party demands for more seats in the Cabinet.

Mochtar Pabottingi of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said that effective government was badly needed to help overcome the country's multi-dimensional crisis.

"There's no need for Megawati to be worried about losing party support or facing impeachment by the People's Consultative Assembly. The most important thing she must do now is to immediately set up a professional and solid Cabinet to put her development programs in all fields into effect," he told The Jakarta Post by telephone here.

Mochtar said the ongoing horse-trading among the parties, which has forced a delay in the announcement of the Cabinet line- up until next Thursday, would only undermine Megawati's government as the politicians in the Cabinet would work more for their party's interests.

"We worry that political figures will pay more attention to making money for themselves and their parties," he said.

Mochtar said Megawati should recruit more technocrats instead of politicians because besides being professional, technocrats or specialists were more dedicated and not tied to particular parties and their political interests.

"Megawati should learn from U.S. technocrats who dominate that country's bureaucracy, or from Indonesian economists, including Sumitro Djojohadikusumo, Emil Salim and Frans Seda, for their dedication to nation-building in the past," he said.

Maswadi Rauf, a political observer from the University of Indonesia, said many sides were disappointed by the delay in announcing the cabinet line-up because there were many major problems that needed immediate handling.

"It's strange that the President has to spend three weeks to produce a Cabinet while at the same time caretaker ministers are not allowed to make any decisions on important matters," he asserted.

He said the President should bear in mind that the public at large did not care about the ongoing horse-trading as what they needed was concrete action to solve the economic crisis, uphold the law and restore order and security.

Maswadi shared Mochtar's view, saying that Megawati had no obligation to establish a rainbow Cabinet.

"Megawati must recruit professional, honest and loyal individuals to her Cabinet. Of course, the parties can seek seats, but Megawati has the prerogative to reject such requests," he said.

Sri Soemantri from Jayabaya University praised Megawati's willingness to form a rainbow Cabinet to win cross-party support for her government.

"Megawati and her party must be accommodative because according to the Constitution, Indonesia has a quasi-presidential system, or a quasi-parliamentary system, if you like," he explained.

He said that under this quasi-parliamentary system, the president was elected by the People's Consultative Assembly and had to account for his or her administration to the Assembly, which had the authority to dismiss the president.

Meanwhile, Gadjah Mada University scholars warned in Yogyakarta on Friday that Megawati should no longer keep delaying the announcement of her cabinet line-up, otherwise she would lose the positive momentum that had arisen following her election as President.

"She may just be trying to be very careful so as to avoid the same mistakes that were made by her predecessor, who often changed his Cabinet line-up. But it will be costly if she takes too much time to set up a Cabinet," economist Sri Adiningsih from Gadjah Mada University's School of Economics told the Post by phone.

Megawati had previously promised to announce her Cabinet line- up within a few days after she was sworn in as President. She has, however, delayed it several times, with the latest promise being that she will announce it next week.

Such delays, according to Adiningsing, had created uncertainty and could result in a negative reaction from the market.

"In fact, the new government will certainly need economic stability, as the new economic authorities will need it as a more solid basis to carry out their duties," she said.

To maintain the good momentum and avoid further economic instability, Adiningsih suggested that Megawati announce her Cabinet line-up soon. The sooner, the better, she said.

Riswandha Imawan, a scholar from Gadjah Mada University's School of Political and Social Sciences, said, "I just can't understand why it is so difficult for Megawati to decide on a Cabinet, given the fact that she possesses all the constitutional requirements to become a president. She has also said repeatedly that she was ready to become president," Riswandha told the Post by telephone.

Riswandha also expressed his concern that Megawati would lose momentum if she failed to set up a Cabinet as soon as possible. Politically, he said, such slow progress would be viewed as a weakness in leadership as she would be seen as being unable to make decisions.

A good leader, by contrast, is a person who is capable of making quick decisions, even in very difficult circumstances, he said.

"Megawati is apparently being trapped into someone else's scenario where she is unable to play her own game. Therefore, she has no other choice than to quickly make a decision and announce the cabinet line-up immediately. Tomorrow (Saturday), if necessary," Riswandha said. (rms/swa)