Gus Dur’s new Cabinet sworn in

It pledges to draw up an economic recovery package within three months to bail country out of its worst crisis.

INDONESIA opened a fresh chapter in its history with the swearing in yesterday of a new Cabinet, which got down to work immediately by pledging to draw up an economic recovery package within three months to bail the country out of its worst financial crisis.

New economic czar Kwik Kian Gie, under pressure to repair the damage caused by the Suharto and Habibie administrations, said he would assess information that was only now being made available to him as minister and would come up with solutions within 90 days.

But he gave indications of what to expect when he told reporters that any new economic strategy would aim at putting the genie of violence back into the bottle.

“This may sound odd, but the priority is to stabilise the social and political situation first,” he said after the swearing-in of President Abdurrahman Wahid’s 35-member Cabinet.

Indeed, the new Indonesian leader, aiming to win and strengthen foreign confidence in his administration, vowed in his speech to operate a clean government – a key reform demand – and said that any minister brought to court should resign immediately.

“This is important to maintain international confidence, including from the business world, in the Cabinet in general, in me as president and in the vice-president,” he said, adding that ministers “should be able to live simply and honestly”.

Speaking without a text – and against the backdrop of calls from students and several other groups here to reshuffle the Cabinet should it prove incapable after 100 days -he also maintained that members of his team would stay the full five-year term until 2004.

Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri led the ministers through their oath-taking ceremony.

Mr Abdurrahman said the swearing in was done by Ms Megawati because problems with his eyesight made it difficult for him to read. He also wanted to show that the formation of the Cabinet was “not the making of one person only”.

Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman and armed forces commander Admiral A.S. Widodo – both of whom hold ministerial rank and will attend Cabinet meetings – were sworn in separately.

A beaming Mr Marzuki told The Straits Times he was “prepared mentally for job”.

“Never in my life did I anticipate it would end up like this for me,” he said. “I am ready for the tough task ahead. With the political backing of the President, we should start pulling through.”

In separate comments to reporters, Mr Kwik said his assessment of the data would enable him to seek a review of the US$45 billion (S$72 billion) international bail-out package drawn up by the International Monetary Fund.

He disclosed that IMF Asia-Pacific director Hubert Neiss was due in Jakarta next week.

He said the IMF and World Bank would restart disbursement of a stalled loans from the US$45 billion package once Jakarta made public an audit into the Bank Bali loans scandal.

An IMF official said that the institution was “open to helping Indonesia get back on its feet” but it wanted assurances that the government would implement IMF-mandated reforms.

Yesterday’s ceremony was marred by a demonstration by employees of the newly-abolished Social Affairs Ministry outside the palace gates.

Reports said President Abdurrahman went to meet them, but it was not clear what he told them.

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