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Indonesia’s Jokowi taps election archrival for defense minister

By PTI Updated: Oct 23, 2019 10:00 pm
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, center, and his wife Iriana, walk with his new cabinet ministers and their spouses after the swearing-in ceremony of the new cabinet at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Widodo named his defeated election rival, a former general linked to human rights abuses, as his defense minister Wednesday and added entrepreneurs and technocrats to his Cabinet to address slowing growth in Southeast Asia’s largest economy. AP/PTI

Jakarta, Oct. 23 (PTI/AFP): Indonesia’s new cabinet were introduced at an informal presentation on the palace steps Wednesday, with President Joko Widodo tapping his election arch-rival — a former general with a chequered rights record — as defence minister.

More than three dozen new ministers — the vast majority of them men — sat casually in batik shirts in front of the imposing doric columns of the Merdeka Palace for the unveiling.

Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, beat Prabowo Subianto in April elections to secure another term as president of the world’s third-biggest democracy.

The victory followed a bitter campaign plagued by fake news online and claims from Subianto that the government staged a “massive, systematic and fraudulent” election, which sparked deadly post-poll riots. At least nine people died in the unrest.

But the pair have since appeared together in apparently friendly public meetings, including on Monday when Subianto, 68, hinted that he and another member of his Gerindra party were tapped for top government posts.

Announcing Subianto’s new role, Jokowi said: “I believe I don’t have to tell him about his job — he knows more than I do.” Rights group Amnesty International Indonesia earlier warned against appointing the former general to a top job, saying it would mark “a dark day for human rights” Subianto, a former son-in-law of Indonesia’s late dictator Suharto, was accused of abuses — including the kidnapping and disappearance of several pro-democracy activists — in the lead up to massive street demonstrations that brought down the regime in 1998.

Subianto has never been charged in relation to the allegations.

Among Jokowi’s 38 ministers, former World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati was picked to serve another term as finance minister, while foreign minister Retno Marsudi kept her post.

Nadiem Makarim, 35, co-founder of ride-hailing startup Gojek, was chosen to be education and culture minister. This week, Makarim announced his resignation from running a firm valued at some 10 billion.

Media mogul Erick Thohir — a former owner of Italian football club Inter Milan and the 2018 Asian Games organising committee chief — was appointed minister of state-owned enterprises.

Wiranto, a 72-year-old former army chief, did not return to cabinet as chief security minister, according to an official list.

Islamic State group-linked militants this month staged a failed assassination attempt on the powerful politician, who is recovering in hospital.

Jokowi and his Vice President Ma’ruf Amin were sworn-in at a heavily guarded inauguration ceremony at the weekend amid fears of another attack.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, has long struggled with Islamist militancy.


By PTI Updated: Oct 23, 2019 10:00:00 pm