Gus Dur sacks four Cabinet ministers
The Indonesian President’s latest move in battle for political survival may further alienate power brokers.
Indonesia’s political crisis escalated dramatically yesterday as President Abdurrahman Wahid, defiant in the face of his critics, sacked four Cabinet ministers, including his security chief and the Attorney-General – who had only just cleared him of graft charges.
But his move may serve to further alienate an even wider group of political elites – especially in the powerful military and from the former ruling Golkar party – and could speed up his ouster.
Presidential spokesman Yahya Staquf said in a televised address that the changes were aimed at “improving the effectiveness and coordination of the government” – a statement eerily similar to one made by former president Suharto when he reshuffled his Cabinet just before his downfall.
But analysts here believe the changes were motivated by political considerations.
Military sources said he was upset with security czar Bambang Yudhoyono for opposing plans to impose emergency rule. At a morning meeting yesterday, he offered General Bambang a position as transport or interior minister and, when that was refused, an angry Mr Abdurrahman told him he would be sacked and replaced by Transport Minister Agum Gumelar.
Gen Agum is a close ally of Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri – who was not consulted.
Sources in her PDI-P party said Gen Agum was a front-runner for the security-chief post in a Megawati administration. Observers said Mr Abdurrahman’s choice of Gen Agum was predicated on the need to “appease and establish a stronger line with Ibu Mega”, something which he had blamed Gen Bambang for failing to do.
Said a senior diplomat: “He might have calculated that it is better to get someone in her inner circle to strike some form of compromise with Megawati at the eleventh hour.”
But any move to compromise appeared to have been negated by his appointment of Justice Minister Baharuddin Lopa as the new Attorney-General to replace Mr Marzuki Darusman, a ranking Golkar member.
The palace has been critical of Mr Marzuki for not appearing to crack the whip against the Golkar men, and his failure to act against Mr Suharto and his clan.
His sacking of Fisheries Minister Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, another senior Golkar member, was also indicative of his move against the party.
But it will only serve to increase Golkar’s resolve to oust the President at a special session of the national assembly in August.
Mr Abdurrahman yesterday also removed Economic Restructuring Minister Cacuk Sudaryanto and police chief Suroyo Bimantoro.
The reshuffle took place on a day of high drama, with the President maintaining that he would not resign, and then giving legislators one week to call off their impeachment plans.
There was no street reaction to his announcement but the markets were spooked by concerns that he would impose emergency rule – though this likelihood was dismissed by Gen Bambang.
Coordinating Security Minister SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO * Replaced by Transport Minister Agum Gumelar, whose position is taken over by Mr Budi Muliyawan Guntoro.
Attorney-General MARZUKI DARUSMAN * Replaced by Justice Minister Baharudin Lopa. Mr Marsilam Simanjuntak, the cabinet secretary, is the new Justice Minister.
Maritime Resources Minister Sarwono Kusumaatmadja * Replaced by Rahim Tohir.
Economic Restructuring Minister Cacuk Sudaryanto * Replacement not announced.