Formation of Cabinet a joint effort, says Gus Dur

Selection of 35 ministers also involved the Vice-President, national assembly speaker, parliamentary head and former armed forces chief

PRESIDENT Abdurrahman Wahid said yesterday that the formation of the new Cabinet was a joint effort and not the work of one man.

He told the 35 ministers being sworn in at the state palace that their selection involved not only him but also Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri, national assembly Speaker Amien Rais, parliamentary head Akbar Tandjung and former armed forces chief General Wiranto.

“The five of us formed this Cabinet and to show that this is the result of a collective work, I have asked the Vice-President to swear you in,” Mr Abdurrahman said.

“Therefore we should be jointly responsible for the Cabinet. Although administratively it is the responsibility of the President, morally it is our collective responsibility,” he said.

Under the Suharto and Habibie administrations, the President was under no obligation to consult anyone when forming a Cabinet.

President Abdurrahman expressed the hope that all future Cabinets would be formed in the same collective manner as the latest one, reflecting a national character and not that of a single individual.

The members of the new Cabinet – the most diverse in more than 30 years – were drawn from all leading parties to reunite the country after almost two years of economic and political chaos.

It is composed of three coordinating ministers, 16 full ministers, 13 state ministers and three officials with ministerial rank. The Cabinet was sworn in with the hope that it would mark the dawn of a true democracy in the country.

Said the President: “It is hoped that this Cabinet will ensure that democracy truly takes place in the lives of the people.”

He pledged to create a clean government and break from the graft of past governments.

“Your duty is a most heavy one,” he stressed. “On the one hand, you have to safeguard the eternal unity of this nation and on the other hand, you have to follow rapid, global economic development.

“We have to manage this process in a way that we do not lose our own identity, our true selves.”

Former Cabinets were dogged by allegations of corruption but Mr Abdurrahman made clear he would not tolerate any graft in government.

He told his ministers: “Live modestly, honestly and know what will be acceptable to society.

“If any of you should be brought to court by the Attorney-General, then it is better for you to step down now.”

But he was also quick to point out that he expected his ministers to serve their full five-year term.

“This Cabinet is one that basically should remain until 2004.”

Since the Cabinet was unveiled on Tuesday, there has been criticism that some ministers were given posts in a bid to satisfy all the competing factions of power.

There have also been calls from several groups, including students who have taken to the streets, to rid the Cabinet of active military officers, or reshuffle it should it prove incapable after 100 days.

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