New Indonesia Cabinet includes reformer, rights abuser


JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced a new Cabinet on Wednesday that puts a retired general linked to human rights abuses in charge of security and returns a popular reformist to the finance ministry.

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who was finance minister from 2005-2010, is returning to the role from her current position as managing director at the World Bank, Jokowi said. In her first stint as finance minister, she was praised for overhauling a corrupt taxation department and guiding the economy through the 2008 global financial crisis.

The appointment is a coup for Jokowi and his efforts to reinvigorate the economy, but was overshadowed by a controversial military figure also joining the Cabinet.

Wiranto, head of the Indonesian military in 1999 when it committed atrocities in East Timor after Timorese voted for independence, was named the minister for security, political and legal affairs. Wiranto and other military men were indicted for crimes against humanity in 2003 by a U.N. tribunal, but successive Indonesian governments have ignored its findings.

Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said Wiranto’s entry into the Cabinet shows a conservative backlash against Jokowi’s efforts to address Indonesia’s poor human rights record, including abuses in Papua, which has a long-running separatist movement, as well as investigating the military’s anti-communist massacres in 1965.

“Wiranto has a lot of baggage,” Harsono said. “I think it is a setback for Jokowi and human rights.”

Wiranto replaced Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, an ally of Jokowi who, though a former general, had opened a landmark symposium earlier this year into the 1965 atrocities that historians estimate killed half a million people. He had been ordered by Jokowi to investigate mass graves that survivors say are scattered throughout Indonesia.

Pandjaitan becomes the chief minister for maritime issues at a time when Southeast Asian nations are at odds with China over its territorial ambitions in the South China Sea.

It is the second reorganization of Jokowi’s Cabinet since the maverick politician became president in 2014, after defeating an establishment candidate in a national election.

A total of 13 ministries were changed and nine of the ministers are new to the Cabinet. Many of the new appointments were in economy-related ministries, reflecting Jokowi’s focus on developing an economy that is one of the largest in Asia but suffers from weak infrastructure and entrenched poverty.

“We have to resolve the poverty problem. We have to reduce the economic gap between the rich and the poor, the gap among regions,” Jokowi said. “We have to strengthen the national economy, we have to open job opportunities as wide as possible for the people.”

Tobias Basuki, a political analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, said the new Cabinet is a “very mixed bag” reflecting crisscrossing priorities that included giving ministries to political parties that have joined Jokowi’s coalition in parliament.

Some of the more progressive and younger politicians were taken out of the Cabinet, he said, but the reshuffle also removed poorer performing ministers.

“Jokowi is a pragmatic president and politician, so it’s not that he ignores human rights but at the same time it’s not a paramount principle for him, he has other pragmatic calculations,” said Basuki.

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Follow Stephen Wright at @stephenwrightAP

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