United: Workers at rally on Wednesday commemorating International Workers Day, also known as May Day. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said that the government would make May Day a national holiday, starting from next year. (JP/Jerry Adiguna)
Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam accused State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan of attempting to gain popularity to support his presidential bid when the controversial minister joined the International Workers Day march in Jakarta on Wednesday.
“I think Dahlan’s action was unnecessary. It just confirmed that he always wanted to gain popularity. Wherever there is public attention, there Dahlan will be,” Dipo told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
“Perhaps it has something to do with Dahlan’s plan to run for president in 2014. Just let the public have their say about whether his actions are unethical or not,” he said, adding that he had not spoken to Dahlan since May Day.
In a move that could be perceived as endorsement of union demands, Dahlan joined thousands of workers at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle on International Workers Day, also known as May Day, on Wednesday.
“I walked here from my office,” Dahlan said, referring to the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry about 1 kilometer from the traffic circle. “I finished all of my work this morning. I don’t have any more appointments either. So, I left the office and here I am,” he said.
Dahlan, however, was not seen among the demonstrators when the rally moved to the State Palace. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was not at the Palace having left for East Java on a working visit.
Dipo said it would be no surprise if people considered Dahlan’s stunt unethical. “Representatives of the unions themselves met the President at the Palace just a day before May Day. The President listened to all of their demands. Why should Dahlan rally with the workers?” he said.
Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said Yudhoyono had learned of Dahlan’s cavorting from the media.
Julian refused to say if the President had talked to Dahlan and how the President had reacted to the questionable maneuver.
Lawmaker Poempida Hidayatulloh criticized Dahlan, saying that the minister himself had yet to ensure that all State-Owned Enterprises’ employees received decent pay.
“He has got plenty of important work to do, particularly concerning the manpower at state-owned companies,” the Golkar Party politician said.
In response to the criticism, Dahlan denied his appearance among the workers meant that he sympathized with the rallies. “
I was just walking because no cars were allowed to go through. Then some of the demonstrators dragged me in to their march. Was that wrong?” he said.
When asked about the view that he was acting against the government, Dahlan only said, “whatever”.
As part of May Day celebrations, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) raised concerns about media companies underpaying journalists.
Corporate spending on journalists’ salaries is very low compared to total sales.
Jawa Pos Group, one of the largest media conglomerates in the country which is controlled by Dahlan, only spends 8 percent of its total sales on the wage bill for its journalists, far below Singapore Press Holdings, with a journalist wage bill of 29.3 percent of total sales and Star Publication in Malaysia with 37.12 percent.
Dahlan has often been accused of vainglory in many of his antics.
Only recently, he baffled law enforcers and lawmakers when he said he was considering an offer to develop marijuana farms for medicinal purposes.
Margareth S. Aritonang contributed to the story