Indonesian President finally reshuffled his cabinet after much speculation and made anti-corruption his top agenda.
According to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his cabinet reshuffle was aimed at improving the government's performance. He tried to deny political pressure from political parties clamouring for distribution of more cabinet posts. Defending his moves, Dr Yudhoyono said he had the final say in the changes despite consulting with political parties beforehand. 'This limited reshuffle is not a rotation (for political parties to get ministerial posts),' he insisted. 'I'm stating this because there are still many requests from several political parties for positions.'
Many political observers and critics remain skeptical amidst speculations of utilitarian political maneuvers behind the scene. In an effort to clean up Indonesian politics, the Indonesian President removed two ministers (Former State Secretary Yusril Ihza Mahendra and former Human Rights and Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin) linked to graft from the cabinet. Before the installation, the cabinet members and the President signed a political contract promising to prioritise the interests of the government and the state over those of political parties and groups, and to remain clean and free from corruption as well as being ready for evaluation on their performance by the President.
But were there political motives behind the new appointments? Golkar cadre Andi Mattalata who was named the new Justice and Human Rights Minister replaces incumbent Hamid Awaluddin because he is said to be close to Golkar leader and Vice-President Jusuf Kalla. In another example, State Minister for Underdeveloped Regions Saifullah Yusuf’s downfall was said to have originated from his decision to switch party allegiances from the National Awakening Party (PKB) to the United Development Party (PPP) mid-administration and thus he had to go to make way for another PKB man, Mr Lukman Edy.
Also replaced was the Attorney General (AG) Abdul Rahman Saleh. The new AG Hendarman Supandji, part of the new anti-graft cabinet, was quick to announce immediately after his appointment that he would be moving in fast on business executives who have been allegedly involved in stashing millions of dollars in stolen state fund in neighbouring countries such as Singapore. Mr Hendarman said that he is ready to carry out the extradition treaty the Indonesia has just signed with Singapore. He however cautioned that before the extradition treaty is ratified by parliaments of both countries, the treaty “still lacks a bridge for its implementation”.
While declaring that his immediate goal is to go after 15 unnamed executives (the so-called big fish corruptors, many of whom are said to be ethnic Chinese) who have moved out funds to Singapore in the midst of the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis, his long term . goal is to hunt down alleged corrupt civil servants and businessmen from the time of former strongman Soeharto. The investigation of the disbursement of US$10 million of money owned by Hutomo Mandala Putra or Tommy Soeharto through a bank account owned by the Human Rights and Justice Ministry is an example. Hendarman is also interested to summon a number of businessmen who had not settled their loans from the state through the Bank Indonesia's credit facilities or BLBI, resulting in trillions of rupiah of state losses. The Koran Tempo daily website also quoted him as saying that he would target misappropriation of funds at government agencies and aim to stop 'leaks' from state budgets.
More immediate than all these priorities, however, is Hendarman’s desire to clean up his own backyard first. The top priority, according to a report in the Suara Pembaruan evening daily, was to set his own house in order by 'cleaning up' the prosecutors' office. 'One of my first tasks...is to take firm action against unscrupulous prosecutors who abuse their positions and break the law of the land,' said Mr Supanji. Regardless of his priorities, Hendarman’s hunt for Indonesian graft fugitives would have to become transnational in nature as Indonesia follow up on the extradition pacts with Malaysia, the Philippines and Hong Kong while negotiating similar treaties with China and Canada. (10 May 2007)
Hendarman pledges to prosecute big fish corruptors (Jakarta Post, 9 May 2007)
Indonesia to extradite executives in Singapore (Antara, 9 May 2007)
RI should immediately settle border with S`pore : political analyst (Antara, 9 May 2007)
Indon president installs new ministers (AFP/Straits Times, 9 May 2007)
Jakarta seeks extradition of 15 over 'stolen funds' (Straits Times, 9 May 2007)
Manila to ask Jakarta for suspect's extradition (Straits Times, 9 May 2007)
Extradition treaty yet to be ratified, but new Indonesian A-G eyes 'big fish' (TODAY, 9 May 2007)
'Politics at play' in Jakarta Cabinet revamp (Straits Times, 8 May 2007)