Suswono may be fired
Bagus BT Saragih
The Jakarta Post
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono may dismiss Agriculture Minister and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician Suswono from the Cabinet in the second shake-up before ending his second term.
Yudhoyono has been said to have planned to include replacements of several other ministers when he announces the replacement of Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo, who will serve as the new Bank Indonesia governor from next month.
Suswono has been in the hot seat following the arrest of his colleague, Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, the former chairman of the PKS, by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on corruption charges.
Luthfi has been accused of using his influence as then party leader to ask Suswono to increase the beef import quota to benefit a private firm from which he allegedly received a Rp 1 billion (US$102,965) bribe.
Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam said on Monday that corruption allegations were among the considerations of the President in replacing his ministers.
'We have to consider such corruption allegations. This is not merely because of the KPK's investigation, but also because there may have been misappropriations, like in the reports I filed with the KPK,' Dipo said as quoted by the Cabinet Secretariat's official website.
'Therefore, [making Cabinet replacements] based on such considerations is very likely,' the former activist added.
In November, last year, Dipo reported at least three ministries to the KPK for alleged corrupt practices involving the ministries' top officials and members of the House of Representatives.
Unnamed sources from the KPK and the Cabinet Secretariat confirmed that the three ministries were the Agriculture Ministry, Defense Ministry and Trade Ministry.
Dipo said that all ministers, be they from political parties or not, would face the same chance of replacement. 'This is about lack of integrity, which is intolerable for the President,' he said.
Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring, a former PKS leader and now a member of the party's advisory council, said he did not know of any plan about a Cabinet reshuffle.
'If Dipo suggested that, then you should go and pursue him for confirmation,' he said. 'I think talking about political parties is beyond Dipo's authority. He is a minister, he doesn't talk about political parties.'
Tifatul also defended Suswono. 'It is true that Suswono has been questioned by the KPK, but he was grilled as a witness, not a suspect. There is nothing wrong with that. Even [Finance Minister] Agus Martowardojo was once questioned by the KPK as a witness,' he said.
A source close to the party's executive confirmed that Yudhoyono's rumored plan to replace Suswono had been discussed among PKS members. The source said that Suwono's replacement would not be from the PKS.
As many as 18 of Yudhoyono's 34 member Cabinet came from six political parties. The number of individual ministerial appointments given to parties depended on their performance at the polls in 2009.
Besides Suswono and Tifatul, PKS' representation in the Cabinet is the Social Affairs Minister Salim Segaf Al Jufrie.
A source also confirmed that the joint-secretariat of the six government coalition parties had held meetings to discuss the possible changes within Yudhoyono's Cabinet.
Tifatul refused to comment on the joint-secretariat's meetings.
PKS secretary-general Taufik Ridho also claimed that he did not have any information about the plan to replace Suswono. 'Any matters relating to the Cabinet are the President's prerogative,' he said.
Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said the official announcement of minister replacements 'will come when the time is right.'
Yudhoyono has also been looking for a replacement for Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu, who is running for the top post at the World Trade Organization (WTO), according to Dipo.
Mari's chance to be the first female filling the organization's top post has become more propitious after she managed to pass the first of three qualification tests. In the next round, she will compete with Mexico's Herminio Blanco, Brazil's Roberto Azevedo, South Korea's Taeho Bark and New Zealand's Tim Groser.
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