Wed, 05 Jan 2000

Wiranto denies rumors on Cabinet shake-up

JAKARTA (JP): Coordinating Minister for Political Affairs and Security Gen. Wiranto denied rumors on Tuesday of an impending Cabinet reshuffle and stressed that his relationship with President Abdurrahman Wahid remained friendly.

Speaking to reporters after attending the inauguration of new National Police chief Lt. Gen. Roesdihardjo at the State Palace, Wiranto appeared confident he would remain in his current post.

"I have often been the target of rumors," Wiranto said when asked about speculation he would be dismissed.

He said it was not simple to replace Cabinet members. "The replacement of officials or Cabinet members needs thorough consideration. It would be a decision requiring much coordination."

The capital has been rife with rumors that a Cabinet reshuffle was in the works. Wiranto, Minister of Trade and Industry Yusuf Kalla, State Secretary Ali Rahman and Minister of Manpower Bomer Pasaribu are among those said to be facing dismissal.

Wiranto also dismissed on Tuesday talk of his shaky relationship with the President, stressing that he remained a loyal servant of the state.

"On loyalty, especially since I am a soldier, of course our orientation is toward togetherness and loyalty to the leaders."

Shortly after the inauguration, Wiranto was seen leaving with Abdurrahman and Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri. According to one of Abdurrahman's aides, Wiranto requested a meeting with the two. There were no further details available.

State Secretary Ali Rahman also denied the rumored Cabinet reshuffle, and brushed off suggestions he was unhappy in his post.

The authority of the once powerful State Secretary's office was severely depleted by Abdurrahman's decision to appoint Ratih Hardjono as presidential secretary.

Ali claimed the President had no plans to remove him from his post. "It's just newspaper speculation."

Separately, Minister of Transportation Lt. Gen. Agum Gumelar broke into laughter when asked to comment on rumors he would replace Wiranto as coordinating minister for political affairs.

"It's just rumors. Where do you get that from," he said. Agum has also been mentioned as a candidate to replace Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono.

Meanwhile, there was no confirmation of reports the President would hold a special Cabinet meeting on Friday to discuss the issue.


Outside the halls of the State Palace, politicians generally displayed displeasure with the rumors.

House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung chided the President for engaging in polemic for the sake of "politicking".

"If the President wants to replace his ministers then just do it. There's no need to circulate such rumors," Akbar said during a breaking-of-the-fast gathering on Tuesday.

He said fueling such rumors would only damage the government's image, portraying it as an incoherent unit without solidity.

Akbar, who is also chairman of Golkar Party, urged Abdurrahman to show his statesmanship by avoiding statements which could further destabilize the situation, because the nation was already faced with severe problems.

Sri Bintang Pamungkas, chairman of the Indonesian Democratic Union Party (PUDI), said there was no point in a Cabinet reshuffle because the real source of the government's poor performance was the lack of management skills by the President and Vice President.

Sri Bintang said the two leaders did not have the capability to manage the Cabinet and focus it on a specific target.

"The wish of various parties, including Gus Dur himself, to reshuffle the Cabinet is useless because what is going on with the Cabinet is a reflection of Gus Dur and Mega themselves," he said, referring to the President and Vice President by their nicknames.

Some words of support were heard from the deputy speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly, Matori Abdul Djalil.

"If the President feels there is a need for a Cabinet reshuffle then I agree," Matori, who is also the chairman of the Nation Awakening Party, said.

He said President Abdurrahman should not again "compromise" on the lineup of the Cabinet if he does decide on a reshuffle.

Matori said Abdurrahman earlier wanted a slimmer Cabinet with only 19 ministers, but pressure from certain figures led to the number of ministers being increased to 35.

Matori is known as a loyal supporter of both Abdurrahman, who founded the National Awakening Party, and Megawati, who he nominated as president during the presidential election in October. (jun/prb)