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Amien gives new Cabinet 90 days SURABAYA - People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Amien Rais said the new Cabinet had three months to prove it could cope with the various challenges the nation is facing. "If the Cabinet fails to perform well, the House of Representatives (DPR) may take steps," he told reporters on Saturday after a meeting with the heads of regional branches of the National Mandate Party (PAN) across East Java.

Among the indicators of success, according to Amien, was a 5 percent reduction in the unemployment rate, which has reached a staggering level of 40 million, progressive eradication of corruption, collusion and nepotism and an improvement in security and order. "If the new Cabinet can meet these targets, Insya Allah (God Willing) there is hope," he told The Jakarta Post.

Amien, who was here in his capacity as the chairman of PAN, said if the situation in the riot-hit towns of Poso, Aceh and Ambon worsened, law enforcement remained weak and corruption loomed, "let the DPR take proper steps to deal with it". He agreed with President Abdurrahman Wahid's statement that the Cabinet must be given a chance, but regretted the President's exclusion of Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri in selecting the Cabinet ministers.

"Only if Megawati feels at home and can cooperate with the President, and the President is sincere in sharing his work with Megawati, will everything run well," he said. Asked about his absence from the swearing-in of the Cabinet members at the State Palace in Jakarta, Amien said he did receive an invitation. "But there is no obligation for me to attend. I'd prefer to go to Malang," he said, referring to a hilly town situated 90 kilometers south of here. Amien was scheduled to speak at an Indonesian Church Council meeting in Batu, Malang, later in the day.

He refused to give more comments, but said the choices of the new Cabinet members were questionable, particularly Prijadi Praptosuhardjo as finance minister and Mahfud MD as defense minister. A sociologist and political observer, Sunyoto Usman from the Yogyakarta- based Gadjah Mada University, suggested that people and political parties give the new Cabinet four months to show its capability.

He said the public should not criticize the revamped Cabinet while the new ministers had yet to start work. "Negative comments have so far come from political parties. Its normal because political parties are voicing their own interests," he said. Sunyoto suggested that the new ministers step down if they failed to perform well within four months. "Most of them are professionals, therefore they don't have any political barriers to stepping down any time they can't do their jobs," he said.

Meanwhile, the Muhammadiyah Youth Organization and the Nahdlatul Ulama- affiliated Ansor Youth Organization regretted the chorus of discouragements against the new Cabinet without giving it a chance to work. "We need no criticism, but political and moral support so that the new Cabinet can work effectively. All sides should respect the President's prerogative to form his Cabinet and they are allowed to criticize the President if the government fails to solve national problems and improve people's social welfare," Syaifullah Yusuf, Ansor chairman, said in a rare joint news conference on Saturday.

Labor unions, and exporters in particular, called on the Minister of Manpower and Transmigration Al-Hilal Hamdi to pay more attention to poor labor conditions and the high rate of unemployment. The Federation of All-Indonesia Workers Union Federation (FSPSI) suggested that the minister, who is not well-known among workers and considered unfamiliar with their problems, hold dialog with labor unions and show his political will to take concrete action to improve the labor conditions.

"The new minister must learn a lot about labor issues so that he will know what he must do to improve the labor conditions. He must dare to take necessary decisions, even if he has to oppose the President. He must side with workers," FSPSI chairman Jacob Nuawea said here on Saturday. He said Al-Hilal should prioritize the increase in workers' monthly minimum wages and the completion of several draft laws that will regulate industrial strikes, disputes and labor protection.

Muchtar Pakpahan, chairman of the Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (SBSI), concurred, and said the new minister should start lobbying employers to improve workers' social welfare. "He must understand the Constitution, which stipulates the government's main task of improving the people's social welfare," he said.

The Association of Labor Export Companies (Apjati) called on the minister to accelerate the labor export to help solve unemployment at home. "First of all, the minister should create a clean governance at the manpower and transmigration ministry and its provincial offices. Without clean governance, the minister and his department will be unable to function as a regulator and facilitator in improving the labor conditions," Apjati chairman Abdulla Umar said.

He said the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration did not need intellectuals or experts, but a minister with strong leadership. The labor activists gave 100 days to Al-Hilal to learn and plan an effective strategy to repair the labor situation. "We will press the minister to step down if he fails to make progress in the next 100 days," said Jacob. In the Central Java capital of Semarang, economist Anggito Abimanyu said that the immediate challenge for the new Cabinet would be to meet the targets of this year's state budget.

Anggito said the government's plan to raise fuel and electricity prices in a bid to decrease subsidies should be carefully implemented to avoid social unrest. He also called on the new Cabinet to stick to the government's commitment to empower small and medium enterprises and create fair business competition.

Posted in Politics @ 28 August 2000 16:52 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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