Abdurrahman dispels cloud over Kwik’s Cabinet post

President moves to calm financial markets with support of economic czar and pledge that there will be no more Cabinet changes.

PRESIDENT Abdurrahman Wahid said yesterday that he had full confidence in his economic czar, Mr Kwik Kian Gie, brushing aside speculation that he was next on line to go following the sacking of two ministers.

In a move aimed at reassuring the financial markets – which plunged to a record six-month low after last week’s development – the 59-year-old Indonesian leader pledged that there would be no more changes in the fragile coalition government.

“One thing is clear is that there is no reshuffle in the Cabinet,” he told reporters.

His comments – another indication of vacillation in government over whether there will be changes – came after he replaced Investment and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Laksamana Sukardi and Trade and Industry Minister Jusuf Kalla from their positions to “harmonise the economic team”.

Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab had set the rumour-mill spinning when he disclosed a day after the two ministers were fired that other ministers might have to give up their positions.

Analysts believed that Mr Kwik would be the next to face the chop – possibly after the national assembly session in August this year – given prevailing unhappiness in the Cabinet over his inability to coordinate the policies of his economic ministers.

But Mr Abdurrahman stressed yesterday that his most senior economic minister would be staying on.

“I have total trust in Kwik Kian Gie,” the Indonesian leader said.

He also took pains to point out that he did not have any problems with Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri whom he met on Monday for talks.

Palace sources told The Straits Times that the two had a “heated discussion” over the third round of Cabinet reshuffles since Mr Abdurrahman came to power in October last year.

Ms Megawati, who heads the Indonesian Democratic Party – Perjuangan (PDI-P) was reportedly concerned against a backdrop of pressure from the PDI-P executive board that more of her party allies might lose their Cabinet posts. Mr Laksamana and Mr Kwik are both senior party cadres.

The President said that there were “differences in opinion which is common in politics” with Ms Megawati but there were no fundamental problems between the two leaders.

Countering suggestions that he did not have a grip on economic decision-making, Mr Abdurrahman said that he ultimately called the shots.

He said that there could have been a perception that he was not interested mainly because he was too preoccupied with handling political and security issues such as Aceh.

“In making economic policymaking, there have been accusations that I was not interested in it,” he said.

“That is not correct. I have always been interested. It is just that I had to deal with the security situation first,” the President said.

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