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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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Two-job Luhut is busiest, strongest man in Cabinet

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Thu, August 13, 2015 | 08:02 am
Two-job Luhut is busiest, strongest man in Cabinet New faces: President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (right) leads the swearing-in ceremony while new ministers — (from left to right, left) Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Agung, Chairman of National Development Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil, Coordinating Political, legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Trade Minister Thomas Trikasih Lembong — take their oaths of office at the State Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday.(Courtesy of Presidential Palace/Cahyo) (right) leads the swearing-in ceremony while new ministers — (from left to right, left) Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Agung, Chairman of National Development Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil, Coordinating Political, legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Trade Minister Thomas Trikasih Lembong — take their oaths of office at the State Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday.(Courtesy of Presidential Palace/Cahyo)

New faces: President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo (right) leads the swearing-in ceremony while new ministers '€” (from left to right, left) Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Agung, Chairman of National Development Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil, Coordinating Political, legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan and Trade Minister Thomas Trikasih Lembong '€” take their oaths of office at the State Palace in Jakarta on Wednesday.(Courtesy of Presidential Palace/Cahyo)

The Presidential Chief of Staff Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan is expected to be the busiest man in the Cabinet with his promotion on Wednesday as the new Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister, replacing Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno.

Eight months after being appointed as the presidential chief of staff, Luhut was sworn in to his new position on Wednesday.

Jokowi set up the Office of the Presidential Staff on Dec. 31 last year, a new body under his direct control, which is tasked with identifying and managing strategic issues and building political communications between the President and other institutions.

Luhut was inaugurated as the presidential chief of staff in haste without a prior announcement.

It took a while for Luhut to consolidate his power at the palace but it paid off when in February, Jokowi granted more power to Luhut '€” a retired general and former advisor to Jokowi'€™s presidential election campaign team '€” and his office, including controlling and monitoring Jokowi'€™s priority program in order to ensure it is implemented in line with Jokowi'€™s vision and mission.

And Luhut gets to keep these roles after he promoted to become one of the most powerful ministers in Jokowi'€™s Cabinet.

Atmadji Sumarkidjo, a special staffer on politics and media at the Office of the Presidential Staff, confirmed that Jokowi had instructed Luhut to keep his position as the presidential chief of staff while serving as a minister.

'€œThere is no change in tasks and roles of the Office of the Presidential Staff. There are only additional tasks for him [Luhut],'€ Atmadji said.

He said that Luhut would not have a problem juggling the two jobs. The tasks of the presidential chief of staff and those of the coordinating political affairs minister were similar. '€œThere is actually a synergy in those functions,'€ he said.

Atmadji also said the President did not violate any regulations in allowing Luhut to take the two jobs.

'€œIt is within the President'€™s authority to decide,'€ he said.

In October last year, when Jokowi was forming his Cabinet, Luhut had been touted as a potential member, but his name was dropped in favor of other candidates nominated by political parties that supported the former Jakarta governor'€™s presidential bid.

As the new coordinating political affairs minister, Luhut said he would try his best to ensure better communication between the President and the public.

'€œI will synchronize all statements to avoid differences [and confusion]. If something is not clear yet and it is related to other ministries, it should be first coordinated with the related ministries before making a statement,'€ he said.

Teten Masduki, a member of presidential communication team, declined to explain why Jokowi picked Luhut as coordinating political affairs minister despite his current job as the presidential chief of staff, saying only that it was a repositioning and that it was part of the President'€™s efforts '€œto build a strong and effective Cabinet'€.

United Development Party (PPP) chairman Muhammad Romahurmuziy supported Jokowi'€™s move in allowing Luhut to hold two such senior positions.

He said that Jokowi'€™s trust in Luhut came from the latter'€™s success, as the presidential chief of staff, in helping Jokowi to better communicate with the people and in improving the performance of his administration.

'€œThe body [the Office of the Presidential Staff] was established to allow the President to better communicate and to help improve his performance,'€ he said.

Jokowi'€™s move in establishing Luhut'€™s office appeared to be an effort to gain more control over his government three months after he took office in last October.

Jokowi also appeared to set up the new body as a tool to counterbalance political pressure coming from outside the State Palace, given that Jokowi was an outsider even within his own Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Also as an outsider to national politics, Jokowi had to deal with senior figures who controlled much of the political game like Vice President Jusuf Kalla, a senior politician of the Golkar Party, NasDem chairman Surya Paloh and the PDI-P'€™s chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.

It was likely that Jokowi, given his close ties with Luhut, used him to deal with the political bigwigs.

One of Luhut'€™s first initiatives after being appointed as the presidential chief of staff was holding several meetings with a number of political figures at his office at the State Palace, including one with House of Representatives speaker Setya Novanto, a fellow Golkar Party politician.

Syamsuddin Haris, a senior political analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said Luhut'€™s clout would likely grow in the coming months, with Jokowi allowing Luhut to operate also as the presidential chief of staff.

Ina Parlina, Grace Amianti, Tama Salim, Satria Sambijantoro and Ester Samboh

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