Yudhoyono plans to be more hands-on

Incoming Indonesian leader aims to centralise presidential bureaucracy and establish inner circle of advisers

Indonesia’s next leader Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is fashioning a highly centralised government with powers that will increasingly revolve around his presidential office.

The Merdeka Palace might even eclipse the Cabinet on important state matters as he develops a White House-style administration that represents a break from the last three Indonesian leaders since Mr Suharto’s fall in 1998.

Fresh indications of the style of the Yudhoyono government have emerged with the incoming president planning to do the following:

Establishing a formal inner circle of advisers;

Placing the presidential and vice-presidential offices and State Secretariat under one roof for the first time since 1945;

Setting up two powerful councils in the palace to deal with security and economic issues.

Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng told The Straits Times: ‘Bapak will be a more hands-on president. He wants to show he is in charge. He wants to recharge the institution of the presidency, which seems to have lost its influence over the last six years.’

Dr Yudhoyono aims to do this by creating a powerful presidential office with a formal inner circle of advisers who will provide him with round-the-clock assistance.

Mr Denny Januar Aly, a member of a team of 11 aides who has been working closely with the new president, told reporters yesterday: ‘The function of the Office of the President will be to provide day-to-day advice and information to help the president face various matters.’

It could inform and advise Dr Yudhoyono on anything ranging from the evaluation of his Cabinet and addressing of international issues to dealing with other higher state institutions and the public, said Mr Denny.

The office would comprise trusted aides and ‘experts who have been with him a long time, who really share his thoughts’.

The Straits Times understands that besides Mr Andi and Mr Denny, others in this circle of advisers could include economist Muhammad Chatib Basri, adviser on religious affairs Muhammad Fuad, and businessman M. Lutfi.

According to Dr Yudhoyono’s blueprint, the presidential office will essentially be a triumvirate of three institutions – the offices of the president and vice-president, and the State Secretariat.

Since independence, Indonesia’s top two leaders have had separate offices located 2km apart.

The impulse to centralise the presidential bureaucracy stems from Dr Yudhoyono’s experience in the outgoing administration where he once served as security czar.

Both Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri and her No. 2 Hamzah Haz pursued their duties independently at the expense of maintaining a common platform on national policies and issues.

Their conflicting positions on terrorism are a glaring example of this.

Mr Andi explained the rationale for the initiative: ‘It will allow the President to govern more effectively.

‘The whole aim is to ensure that the country’s decision makers are all kept in the loop.’

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