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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     21 October  2011

Indo cabinet reshuffle opens wounds

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Indonesian coalition parties affected by the recent cabinet shake-up are demanding explanations for the dropping of their ministers.

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), which lost one of its four seats with the replacement of Suharna Surapranata as research and technology minister by Gusti Muhammad Hatta, spoke on Thursday of a conspiracy by "certain parties" to slash its representation in the cabinet.

"There was indeed some maneuvering going on to prompt the president to drop one of the PKS ministers," Mahfudz Siddiq, the PKS deputy secretary general, told reporters at the House of Representatives.

A congress of the party's advisory council, he added, scheduled for next month, would discuss this "infraction" of the political contract drawn up between the PKS and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democratic Party.

Under the contract, the PKS is assured of four seats in the cabinet. Ahead of the reshuffle announcement, the party threatened to leave the coalition if that figure was reduced. Mahfudz said that possible step would be discussed at the congress.

The Golkar Party, which retained its three cabinet seats but saw Fisheries Minister Fadel Muhammad unexpectedly replaced by another Golkar stalwart, Syarif Cicip Sutardjo, questioned the wisdom of dropping someone as "qualified" as Fadel.

Akbar Tanjung, chairman of the party's advisory board, said that Fadel had consistently shown his commitment to fighting for the interests of regular Indonesians, including in his opposition to controversial plans to import salt.

"There is no one who doubts that Fadel was committed to his job," Akbar said. "He stood by the people, which means that he did good."

"Yet what happened? He got replaced. That's something that both shocks and disappoints us. People have called to ask me what happened. They said [Fadel] frequently met with them and helped them. All I could say was that it was the president's decision."

Akbar, a former Golkar chairman and state secretary, said Yudhoyono owed the people and Golkar an explanation for replacing Fadel.

"I've spoken to Ical [Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie] and he said he never expected such a move," he said.

"So we truly hope for some transparent and open communication [from Yudhoyono]. In a democracy we need transparency and accountability."

If the president is unwilling to explain his decision, Akbar continued, the very least he can do is invite Fadel back into the cabinet.

A top Democrat, however, said all the decisions made in the reshuffle had been explained by Yudhoyono at a meeting with the heads of the coalition parties.

The opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) urged the Yudhoyono administration to ignore the grumbling in the coalition and focus on serving the people.

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