Thu, 04 May 2000

Three ministers deny rumors they will resign

JAKARTA (JP): Following days of speculation over their future, three ministers insisted on Wednesday that they would stay in the Cabinet, while another minister opted to abandon the top post of a political party for the sake of his state job.

Coordinating Minister for Economy, Finance and Industry Kwik Kian Gie said he had fully recovered from exhaustion on Tuesday and vowed to remain in charge of the country's economic policies.

"No, I will not quit. I do not know where you heard the rumors," Kwik responded to journalists' questions before attending a weekly Cabinet meeting at Bina Graha presidential office.

Following his doctor's advice, the minister spent Tuesday night in the hospital. He had been diagnosed with exhaustion after leading intensive negotiations with a visiting International Monetary Fund (IMF) review team.

Kwik, who is also one of deputy chairmen of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), conceded that his party was disappointed by the dismissal of Laksamana Sukardi from the Cabinet. However he said his party had decided not withdraw its members from the Cabinet.

"Disappointment is one matter, but whether it is followed by the withdrawal of ministers is another issue," Kwik said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Communications Lt. Gen. Agum Gumelar retracted a statement he made on Tuesday that he might leave the Cabinet following two train accidents over the last few days.

The minister indicated that he would not likely follow the resignation of his subordinate Director General of Land Transportation Santo Budiono.

Santo tendered his resignation to Agum on Tuesday after the collision of two trains in Tangerang one day before, in which four people were killed.

"My position depends on the President's judgment of my performance," Agum said after attending the Cabinet meeting.

Minister of Law and Legislation Yusril Ihza Mahendra also asserted that he would retain his Cabinet post.

He played down his earlier threat that he would leave his post if President Abdurrahman Wahid did not back down on his proposal to repeal a 1966 People's Consultative Assembly decree which bans the propagation of Marxism and Leninism.

"The President will not likely go ahead with his proposed plan," Yusril responded when asked whether he would act on his words.

Separately, Minister of Forestry and Plantations Nur Mahmudi Ismail announced his decision to retire as Justice Party chairman, saying he intended to concentrate on his work as a minister.

"I'll leave the party because I want to concentrate on my ministerial job," Mahmudi told a media conference at the party's office on Jl. Mampang Prapatan in South Jakarta.

Mahmudi, also on the expert staff at the Research and Application of Technology Agency (BPPT), said he resigned from the party's executive board also because his unpaid leave from the state agency had lapsed.

According to the law, civil servants are barred from being involved in politics.

Untung Wahono took over from Mahmudi as the party's chairman until the election of a new chairperson during a congress from May 19 to May 21 in Depok, West Java.

Asked whether his resignation had something to do with being persuaded by President Abdurrahman to join the National Awakening Party (PKB), Mahmudi simply said: "We should learn to be mature in politics."

Abdurrahman founded PKB last year.

Arbi Sanit, a politics expert from the University of Indonesia, said Mahmudi's resignation had something to do with the President's effort to empower the presidential system and to help PKB grow as a major party in the future.

He said Abdurrahman, widely known as Gus Dur, was gradually expelling partisans in his Cabinet because their presence had generated an ineffective team with which to run his government and cope with the present political and economic crises. (prb/byg/rms)