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Wayward PKS irks coalition

The Prosperous Justice Party’s (PKS) decision to once again oppose the government’s plan to raise the price of subsidized fuel has raised the ire of other parties in the ruling coalition.

The leaders of government coalition parties, except the PKS, met at the residence of Vice President Boediono in Central Jakarta on Tuesday evening to discuss the recalcitrant PKS.

While many suggested that the party had been attempting to improve its standing in the wake of the beef importation scandal, politicians from other coalition parties took the PKS’ antics as nothing but rebellion.

“Coalition means unity. We are supposed to be united in supporting the government. We will discuss the matter tonight, let’s just wait,” Syariefuddin Hasan, the managing chairman of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party (PD), said before the meeting.

He denied that Yudhoyono had been afraid of acting decisively against the PKS because a change in the coalition’s composition could affect the composition of his Cabinet, which could hamper the government’s performance before his term ended in 2014.

“This is not about being afraid or not being afraid. If the PKS insists on rejecting [the government’s decision to increase the fuel-price], we’ll see,” the cooperatives and small and medium enterprises minister said.

Several media outlets reported that banners bearing the statement “the PKS rejects the fuel price hike” had been strategically placed in Jakarta since Monday.

PKS chairman Anis Matta claimed that the party’s decision to reject the fuel-price hike had nothing to do with the party’s commitment to the coalition. “Our consideration is purely in the interests of the people,” he said in Sampang, Madura, East Java, on Monday evening, as quoted by Antara news agency.

Agung Laksono, a deputy chairman of the Golkar Party, said a decisive “disciplinary” measure should be imposed on the PKS. “Any party within the coalition infringing our own agreement must be punished, otherwise our purpose in being grouped in this coalition will make no point,” Coordinating People’s Welfare Minister Agung said at the State Palace.

Agung was referring to an eight-point agreement signed by leaders of all six coalition parties in April last year. Yudhoyono initiated the agreement after another PKS rebellious act, siding with opposition parties to reject an article in the revised 2012 State Budget Law that would allow the government to change the price of subsidized fuel, which was approved during a House of Representatives plenary session.

The agreement clearly states that all government coalition parties must support the government’s policies.

Agung said Yudhoyono, as the head of the coalition, should make a decision on the PKS’ fate in the coalition. When asked if the PKS would lose one of its ministers, he said, “We’ll see”.

There are currently three ministers from the PKS. They are Social Affairs Minister Salim Segaf al Jufrie, Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring, and Agriculture Minister Suswono. Many believe Suswno’s position would be in jeopardy, should Yudhoyono really want to “punish” the PKS by reducing its ministers in his Cabinet.

In a major Cabinet reshuffle in 2011, the President reduced the number of ministers from the PKS from four to three, dismissing senior PKS member Suharna Surapranata from his post as research and technology minister. Many saw the dismissal as a move by Yudhoyono to punish the PKS for repeated “rebellious acts”.

In 2010, the PKS backed the conclusion of the inquiry into the 2008 Bank Century bailout, which said the government’s decision to disburse Rp 6.76 trillion involved bribery. A year later, the PKS formed an “alliance” with opposition parties supporting the establishment of a committee into the graft-ridden tax system.

In late May, some PKS executives said the party was considering leaving the government coalition. Party deputy secretary-general Fahri Hamzah said he was disappointed with the President’s leadership.

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