The Jakarta Post
For the second time this year, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono awarded the Bintang Mahaputera Adipradana medal, the nation's second-highest civilian honor, to 33 figures, mostly former and outgoing members of his Cabinet on Monday, just days before his presidency ends.
Such civilian awards are usually given to mark Independence Day.
In August, the outgoing president awarded 38 medals to various figures, while Monday's ceremony saw him giving another 68 accolades a week before he ends his second term in office.
The 33 awards went to 11 ministers, including Democratic Party executives, for example, Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin and Youth and Sports Minister Roy Suryo; 17 former ministers, for example, former law and human rights minister Patrialis Akbar and another former law and human rights minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra and former fisheries and maritime affairs minister Fadel Muhammad; and five other heads of state bodies.
Patrialis, who is currently a Constitutional Court justice, is a former National Mandate Party (PAN) politician who was known for his lackluster performance as a minister. Yusril is the founder of the Crescent Star Party (PBB) and Fadel is a Golkar Party executive. Yudhoyono also bestowed the same award on Golkar Party executive and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Sharif Cicip Sutardjo and two people who vied in the Democratic Party presidential convention: State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan and former trade minister Gita Wirjawan.
During the event held at the State Palace, Yudhoyono also bestowed different medals of lesser of rank, the Bintang Mahaputra Utama, on 23 former and outgoing deputy ministers and the Bintang Mahaputera Nararya on six other state officials. The government also gave the lesser Bintang Jasa medals to six figures who have been fighting for Papuans' rights and welfare.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto, who oversaw the selection of medal recipients, said there was nothing wrong with awarding more medals this year.
'There is no provision saying they must be given only in August,' Djoko said on Monday at the State Palace, and later added that it was the last medal award ceremony for Yudhoyono.
According to Djoko, the awardees deserved the medals for their service to the country.
Award ceremonies often incur criticism because of the controversial recipients or because some are close to Yudhoyono, plus the number of recipients appear to increase ahead of the end of his presidency.
Past recipients include Yudhoyono's wife, Ani Yudhoyono.
Former energy and mineral resources minister Jero Wacik, who is currently a suspect in an extortion case in his ministry, and former religious affairs ministry Suryadharma Ali who is facing corruption charges have also been controversial recipients.
Their awards have not been recalled despite their legal statuses.