JAKARTA – Indonesian President Joko Widodo fired five ministers and transferred one in a long expected cabinet reshuffle announced Wednesday afternoon. Trade Minister Rachmat Gobel was replaced by Thomas Lembong, a Harvard graduate and former investment banker. Coordinating Economic Minister Sofyan Djalil was replaced by Darmin Nasution, the central bank governor from 2010 to 2013. Djalil’s new post is minister of national development planning. The appointment of Nasution and Lembong has been welcomed by those who feared party hacks might be appointed based on political connections. “As a former central bank governor, [Nasution] knows very well the fiscal and macroeconomic matters that need to be addressed,” said Djayadi Hanan, executive director at Saiful Mujani, a Jakarta political consultancy. Gobel’s decision to slash cattle imports led to beef prices surging and protests from consumers already struggling with a sliding rupiah and growing inflation.”It is no surprise that the trade minister was replaced,” said Yohanes Sulaiman, a lecturer at the Indonesian National Defense University. “Many business people said he was incompetent.”
JAKARTA – Meeting Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday to discuss mutual trade and investment prospects, UK Prime Minister David Cameron told media that “we [the U.K. and Indonesia] are natural business partners and there is much more we can do.” In return for considering British investments, Indonesia wants greater access to the U.K. and to the wider European market for its exports, which are mostly commodities such as palm oil, rubber, coal, coffee, copper, oil and natural gas. “The lower tariff [is] needed on Indonesian [primary] products like wood, clothing, coffee and fisheries,” Widodo said after meeting Cameron, adding that British applications for investment in Indonesian infrastructure would be considered.
JAKARTA – As pastoral work goes, there must be few tasks as grueling, or as raw, as seeing a condemned man through his final hours before execution. But when Father Charles Burrows, an Irish missionary in Indonesia, chatted and prayed with 42-year-old Brazilian Roderigo Gularte late into April 28, no matter what he counseled, the condemned man — a schizophrenic with bipolar disorder — seemingly understood nothing of what was about to happen. “I was joking with him, saying that ‘I am 72; I will be up there with you soon enough,’” recalled the Dublin-born Burrows, who was speaking by telephone from Cilacap on the southern coast of Java. “Only when they bound him in chains did he ask, ‘Father, am I being executed?’” said the priest, who explained that Gularte heard voices telling him he would be okay.
JAKARTA – With restrictions on small retailers now in place, a wider ban is now being pushed by two of the four Islamic parties represented in Indonesia’s parliament, the United Development Party (known by its Indonesian initials as the PPP) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). The proposed law seeks to ban the production, distribution, sale and consumption of beverages containing more than 1% alcohol. Offenders found distributing or producing alcohol could face between two and 10 years in prison, or a fine of up to 1 billion rupiah ($77,205). Anyone caught drinking alcohol could face a prison term of between three months and two years.
JAKARTA – “Please come and invest in Indonesia. Because where we see challenges, I see opportunity. And if you have any problem, call me.” President Joko Widodo’s plea from the podium to World Economic Forum delegates meeting in Jakarta this week was typical of the personal style that the homespun politician crafted first as mayor of his hometown Solo and later governor of Jakarta. His message was intended to show that he is in for the long haul when it comes to overcoming obstacles to investment.
JAKARTA – Since taking office in October, Joko Widodo’s promises of reform have faltered in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy. Widodo’s supporters say he has had to balance the demands of powerful politicians who backed his candidacy, particularly former President Megawati Sukarnoputri and wealthy businessman Surya Paloh, one of whose allies Widodo appointed as attorney general. Abdee Negara, a popular Indonesian guitarist who campaigned for Widodo, said, “He has a baby-step approach to getting things done. There is a lot of politics between the president and his parties.” Still, Negara said, “I was glad I was part of the wind of change.”
JAKARTA – Widodo has come under fire in social media for aspects of his presidency so far, with critics and supporters alike lambasting his perceived indecision after Indonesia’s unloved national police filed charges against leaders of the country’s popular Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which had branded Widodo’s nominee for new police chief a corruption suspect. Widodo’s electoral success had partly been down to his own clean image and his anti-graft rhetoric, so it is little wonder, perhaps, that Widodo has kept his own fingers off the “send” button as millions of Indonesians weigh in, often using hashtags such as #SaveKPK and #Shameonyoujokowi.
JAKARTA – Indonesia’s police and anti-graft agency, known as the KPK, have been ordered by the President to end their latest feud. The damage may have been done, however, with the KPK needing police backup to carry out its work. “We need investigators from the police, but police and KPK have a bad relationship,” Budi said.
PELABUHAN RATU, INDONESIA — This small fishing town on Java’s southwest coast is best known for the legendary sea queen Nyi Roro Kidul, a spurned princess turned mermaid who is said to snatch whatever man takes her fancy from the miles of beach that forms the town’s frontier with the Indian Ocean. But the predatory queen is not the only marine enigma swimming through the turbulent undertow off the rain-swept coast. For Hisayasu Ishitani, a chain smoking 72-year old Japanese, now in his 5th decade in Indonesia, the local waters mean a plentiful supply of eel — and the opportunity to fill a growing market gap in his Japanese homeland.
JAKARTA – The power struggle surrounding Indonesia’s search for a new chief of police escalated Friday morning with the arrest of prominent anti-graft official Bambang Widjojanto on charges of inciting perjury. Widjojanto is deputy head of the Corruption Eradication Commission, known by its Indonesian initials as the KPK. The agency had earlier indicted Budi Gunawan, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s nominee for police chief, on charges of accepting gifts and bribes.Nursyabani Katjasungkana, a lawyer with the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, said that Widjojanto’s arrest was a retaliation against the KPK by the police. “This cannot be separated from the context of the KPK investigation into the nominee for chief of police, Katjasungkana said, speaking at the Jakarta police station where Widjojanto was being detained.