Wed, 21 Jun 2000

Observers hail support for Cabinet reshuffle

JAKARTA (JP): Political observers have welcomed the apparent show of solidarity for the President in undertaking a Cabinet reshuffle, saying despite the political bickering, it demonstrated that major political parties still put the national interest first.

Political observer J. Kristiadi welcomed the show of solidarity.

The support, he said, was a clear sign that political elite realized that the compromise Cabinet established in October simply did not work because it had become an arena of dispute between cabinet members from different parties.

"The elite understands that we need a more professional Cabinet to answer the needs of the people, rather than a compromise. This understanding should be maintained," Kristiadi said.

Abdurrahman's Cabinet, established after he was elected in October, was seen by many as a compromise to include all political elements in the House of Representatives.

However, the Cabinet has been besieged by bickering and lack of coordination along with various other extraneous issues, such as the East Timor investigation, which have impeded its work.

At least five ministers have resigned in eight months.

In the runup to the August General Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), major political parties have expressed a rare show of unity by expressing support for Abdurrahman to revamp his Cabinet without political interference.

Gadjah Mada University rector Ichlasul Amal said that the common stance could also tone down the relentless bickering which had left many disenchanted.

Ichlasul said the support would allow Abdurrahman to conduct his prerogative freely and with certainty.

"It is important to let President Abdurrahman perform his prerogative freely, without intervention and worrying about political threats from politicians," he said in Yogyakarta on Tuesday.

He added that the poor performance in the past was also in part due to the constant political bickering from the various interests of the party which also affected the President's future.

The chairman of Ad Hoc Committee I of the MPR Jacob Tobing said he understood that the support for a reshuffle had been attained following a meeting between the heads of major political parties and the President.

"From what I know, political parties have agreed to give the President a chance, and reminded him that he has tasks and duties that cannot be delegated to anyone else," Jacob, of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), said.

He said support for a complete Cabinet overhaul in August was necessary in order to give Abdurrahman a second chance to improve his performance.

Meanwhile, National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman Amien Rais said he would not object if the President did not include PAN ministers in the new Cabinet.

"Let's give Abdurrahman a chance to appoint his own Cabinet ministers. We will see whether it is better or not," Amien, who is also the MPR Speaker, said.

He rejected suggestions that the new Cabinet would only comprise of ministers from the National Awakening Party, Golkar Party and PDI Perjuangan.

"If you say it's (the lineup) like that. That assumption is wrong. I know better," he said.

But there were some words of discontent from Golkar Party legislator Marwah Daud Ibrahim who insisted that party chairman Akbar Tandjung's support for a reshuffle did not represent party opinion.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Marwah said it is not wise for Akbar to disclose such opinions after holding a meeting with the President and other political parties leaders, without consulting the topics with other Golkar members.

"It is not correct if Akbar claims he can represent the voice of the party, his opinion is simply an elite opinion, not the party's opinion," Marwah, who is not known to be on the same political alignment with Akbar, said.

She said many of Golkar's members may have differences of opinion and Akbar's support for the President could not guarantee Abdurrahman's position and freedom to use his prerogative and choose his own Cabinet. (dja/jun/44/har)