A Corona-induced Shake Up within Indonesia?

In December, it had been revealed by Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowki’ Widodo that his cabinet will undergo a major reshuffle as an attempt to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, which has knocked Indonesia into its first recession since 1998.

Jokowi, announced that six of his ministers had been removed and replaced, including the ministers of Trade, Tourism and Health. Overall, four ministers had been removed with two additional ministers rotated to other positions – ending weeks of press speculation about the possible changes to the cabinet line-up. Jokowi had wrote on social media that ‘[h]opefully these six new ministers will bring new enthusiasm and new hope, for us, for the people, and for the nation.’

One of the ministers removed was former Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto. Terawan – who previously served as a military doctor and was the former personal doctor to Jokowi’s late mother – was removed for being in charge of the nation’s coronavirus pandemic response which Jokowi regarded as insufficient.

With Indonesia having the largest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia and the second highest in Asia, it is very surprising that Jokowi waited until late December to remove Terawan from his position. In February 2020, Terawan declared that Indonesia was going to be protected from the virus because all of its citizens ‘prayed a lot’ – believing this was why it had avoided the disease so far. Within the following months, the nation had two self-declared cases. Nevertheless, Terawan maintained optimism, stating that the virus would heal itself whilst accusing the Indonesian media of causing unnecessary panic amongst the public.

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When the virus took a turn for the worst in October, a coalition of civil society groups was formed. These included academics, lawyers and social organisations that begun a major online petition to remove Terawan. The petition also targeted Jokowi directly, urging him to dismiss Terawan and replace him with someone more competent.

Terawan’s replacement is now Budi Gunadi Sadikin, who is also the current Vice Minister of State-Owned Enterprises. Prior to this, Budi was the former head of the Indonesian bank Mandiri. Budi also chairs the economic task force set up by the government, which was established as a tool to help the nation grow after its coronavirus related recession.

However, Budi’s appointment has drew major criticism towards the government. This is because of his lack of health care experience. His previous banking experience implies that Jokowi is prioritising economic recovery before dealing with the virus itself, especially with the vaccine due to arrive in Indonesia this year.

In addition to Budi’s promotion, the reshuffle replaced two ministers who had been recently arrested for corruption. This included Edhy Prabowo, who served as the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister. Edhy was arrested for allegedly taking bribes related to the exportation of lobster larvae. He was replaced by Sakti Wahyu Trenggono ,who had previously served as Vice Defence Minister.

Jokowi chose the former Mayor of Surabaya Tri Rismaharini to become the new Social Affairs Minister, replacing Juliari Batubara – who had been detained by the Indonesian Anti-Corruption Commission in early December. The allegations against him are due to bribery relating to the government’s coronavirus aid response and distribution.

Jokowi had also appointed the former deputy governor of Jakarta and the losing Vice Presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno as the new Tourism and Creative Economy Minister. All of these appointments by Jokowi has seriously shaken up his cabinet and his coronavirus response. What will be interesting to see is Jokowi possibly approving of the performance of these ministers and if his war on political corruption will continue further.

Featured image credit: “Presiden Joko Widodo berkunjung ke Australia” by Australian Embassy Jakarta is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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