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Susilo replaced in hasty reshuffle JAKARTA - President Abdurrahman Wahid added further suspense to the unfolding political drama by catching everyone by surprise on Friday with his announcement of a Cabinet reshuffle which included the replacement of his top political and security minister. The reshuffle was not so much a case of ushering new faces into the Cabinet as one of musical chairs, as three of the five new appointments were those of people already serving in his administration.
What significance the reshuffle has remains to be seen as the President is due to face a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly in less than 60 days which could spell the end of his government. The most critical change was the appointment of Minister of Communications Agum Gumelar to replace Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who just days earlier had been handed a specific executive order to ensure security in anticipation of potential unrest as a result of the political impasse.
Many fear the sudden reshuffle could be the precursor of further drastic steps that the President has threatened to take. Another noteworthy change was the appointment of Minister of Justice and Human Rights Baharuddin Lopa to replace Attorney General Marzuki Darusman.
The replacement of Marzuki also came as a shock to many as on the eve of the House of Representatives vote to call for a special session, the Attorney General's Office cleared Abdurrahman of involvement in the two economic scandals which became the catalysts for the House's censure process. In the government announcement read by presidential spokesman Yahya C. Staquf on Friday afternoon, Susilo, Agum, Baharuddin, and Marzuki, along with Minister of Maritime Affairs Sarwono Kusumaatmadja and Junior Minister for National Economic Reconstruction Restructuring Cacuk Sudarijanto were also dismissed.
Apart from Baharuddin and Agum, the new appointments were Cabinet Secretary Marsilam Simanjuntak as Minister of Justice and Human Rights, and two lesser known figures, namely Rokhmin Dahuri as Minister of Maritime Affairs and Budi Mulyawan Suyitno as Minister of Communications. Rokhmin, 42, is known as an academic who specializes in maritime affairs and currently holds a senior post in the ministry.
Budi is presently secretary of the Training and Education Center of the Ministry of Communications. He is also an executive of the Indonesian Association of Engineers. It is unclear whether Marsilam will continue to double as Cabinet Secretary but the replacement of Marzuki, a key Golkar cadre, suggests that a follow-up announcement may be in the offing.
Sources have said that a minister known to be the President's close confidant may take over Marsilam's current post, leaving the portfolio open for Marzuki to fill. Controversy over the reshuffle is expected to persist since Abdurrahman has, apparently, also decided to replace National Police chief Gen. Surojo Bimantoro. Bimantoro, however, has refused to step down arguing that any move to fire him must adhere to the prevailing regulations which stipulate that such a change must be approved by the House.


Susilo's replacement is seen by many as nothing short of tragic. It was Susilo over the past weeks who tirelessly led a team of ministers tasked with finding a political compromise in respect of the impasse between Abdurrahman and Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri, Susilo has also been in the spotlight since Monday after he was handed an executive order to maintain security which potentially could allow him to wield wide-ranging authority were a sudden state of emergency to be declared.
Susilo, who was previously Minister of Mines and Energy, took up his coordinating post in August. He took up his first Cabinet post with some reluctance as a regulation demanded that he resign from active military service upon accepting a civilian appointment. He eventually resigned in October 1999 and was promoted to general. Speaking to journalists before the official announcement of his replacement, a clearly somber Susilo said he had been told by the President that he was being replaced because of popular demand, and to improve the relationship between Abdurrahman and Megawati.
"This morning at 10 a.m. the President decided to dismiss and replace me ... I am loyal to the President and I will accept this decision," he added. Susilo revealed that he had turned down an offer as home affairs minister or communications minister. Abdurrahman later in the evening did not hide his reasons for appointing Agum to the pivotal post: "I want someone who can foster ties with Megawati."
"Agum Gumelar will be the perfect man to maintain good ties between the two of us," Abdurrahman said in a nationally televised interview. Agum, also a retired military man, has a reputation of being close to Megawati and some in the past have suggested that his inclusion in the cabinet was based on her recommendation. But by late Friday there was no official confirmation whether Agum had actually agreed to take on the job.
Agum visited the Vice President on Friday night at her official residence for one hour. No information was forthcoming about the meeting. The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan)'s Pramono Anung told The Jakarta Post that Megawati had yet to respond to the reshuffle. Marzuki Darusman at his office appeared to be surprised moments after the announcement was made at the presidential palace.
"I don't know. Where did you get that information?," he replied when asked by reporters. The immediate reaction from outside the presidential circle was one bordering on incredulity. House Speaker Akbar Tandjung and Assembly Speaker Amien Rais both questioned the dismissal of Susilo, whom they both regarded as being someone who had credence in the eyes of the public.
But the most telling indication of the significance of the reshuffle was hinted at by defense minister Mahfud MD who remarked that if Abdurrahman wanted to impose a state of emergency or dissolve the House to preempt the special session, he would have to replace his top security people. "The President needs loyalists ... The first people that he should replace are the Indonesian Military (TNI) chiefs." "Afterwards, I guess he should replace his Minister of Home Affairs and Regional Autonomy (Surjadi Soedirdja) and also his Minister of Defense," Mahfud told journalists, obliquely indicating his lack of support for a state of emergency.

Posted in Politics @ 02 June 2001 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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