The Jakarta Post
Elements both within and outside President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s government coalition are in defensive mode following his recent threat to reshuffle the Cabinet.
However, as the President has yet to communicate his next course of action with political parties that form the government coalition, they have opted to play it low key.
“Political parties in the coalition haven’t met with the President up to now regarding the issue of a Cabinet reshuffle or anything else," Arsul Sani, secretary-general of the United Development Party (PPP), a party in the government coalition, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
Jokowi expressed his disappointment and concern about healthcare programs and the distribution of social assistance for poor people and those seriously affected by the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during a Cabinet meeting last month. The President’s fiery speech before the June 18 meeting, in which he also highlighted the lack of a sense of crisis among his aides, has gone viral in the past few days.
Most political parties in the coalition regard it as acceptable for Jokowi to express his disappointment at the Cabinet’s performance, given the poor coordination among his ministers.
Jokowi's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said the President's anger was understandable as several ministers had not shown enough “sense of crisis.”
"There are some [Cabinet ministers] that tend to play it safe and lack initiative," PDI-P secretary general Hasto Kristiyanto said in a written statement on Monday.
Similarly, Arsul said it was difficult to measure some Cabinet members' performance as they had never shown their work or achievements in the mainstream media, or even on social media.
“On the other hand, there are those who often appear in public but have poor communication skills,” he said, while suggesting that the reshuffle would not be a problem for the PPP, as long as Jokowi communicated the decision with them first.
Asrul did not name the specific ministers he was referring to but Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto is among the ministers who have been in the public spotlight amid the pandemic. A coalition of civil society organizations has repeatedly urged Jokowi to dismiss Terawan, citing an “absence of sensitive, responsive and effective leadership” in handling the pandemic.
In his June 18 speech, Jokowi specifically criticized the Health Ministry’s low spending on the health sector despite the country’s struggle to contain COVID-19.
On Tuesday, the President vowed that he would keep an eye on ministers’ spending and their development.
“If it [spending] is still low, I will call and warn them – the ministers and heads of government agencies. We’re pushing the government spending, so that the money supply can grow,” Jokowi said during a visit to monitor COVID-19 containment efforts in Central Java.
Lawmakers from the NasDem Party and Golkar Party, both in the government coalition and each with three ministers, have come to the defense of Terawan, saying the President’s criticism is “not completely correct” as the COVID-19 budget for the health sector had increased from Rp 75 trillion (about US$5.2 billion) to Rp 87.55 trillion. However, of this total, only Rp 25.73 trillion is managed by the Health Ministry.
Besides Terawan, Social Affairs Minister Juliari Batubara of the PDI-P and the Villages, Disadvantaged Regions and Transmigration Minister Halim Iskandar of the National Awakening Party (PKB) have also been in the spotlight as the pandemic has exposed holes in social aid disbursement.
The PKB, which also has three seats in the current Cabinet, questioned the need for a reshuffle in times like these, expressing confidence in its members’ performances.
“The social aid distribution is still on the right track. Several problems have been resolved,” PKB executive Yaqut Cholil Qoumas said on Monday.
The Gerindra Party voiced similar confidence, “We are working hard to support the government in both the Defense Ministry and the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry,” the party’s deputy chairman Sufmi Dasco Ahmad said on Monday.
The National Mandate Party (PAN), which has reportedly been in talks about joining the government coalition, praised Jokowi’s bold speech, but stopped short of speculating about being part of the Cabinet following any reshuffle.
"Don't go too far. PAN isn’t thinking about that. We’re focused on helping the government in dealing with COVID-19," party executive member Saleh Partaonan Daulay said on Monday.