On Friday (14/10) Indonesian President Joko Widodo appointed Ignasius Jonan as Indonesia's new Energy and Mineral Resources Minister. Jonan is the nation's former Transportation Minister who was replaced by Budi Karya Sumadi in a cabinet reshuffle in late July 2016. Meanwhile, the position of Energy and Mineral Resources Minister had been empty (although for the time being filled by Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan) after the dismissal of Arcandra Tahar in mid-August 2016.
The introduction above needs some further explanation. In July's cabinet reshuffle Arcandra Tahar, a US-educated oil and gas professional (who had worked in the USA for many years), was appointed Energy minister. However, only some three weeks later he was dismissed (honorably) by President Widodo after reports surfaced that indicated Tahar holds American citizenship. As Indonesian law does not recognize dual citizenship (except for persons under the age of 18 years), Widodo rapidly reacted by dismissing his newly appointed minister (while Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan became interim Energy Minister).
This episode was an embarrassing one for Indonesia. It showed that authorities had not conducted a thorough investigation into the background of a minister, while Tahar himself had also remained silent on the topic while he should have known that his dual citizenship (reportedly he was carrying two passports) would cause problems (technically it is not dual citizenship because Indonesian law stipulates an Indonesian citizen automatically loses his citizenship when he/she voluntarily accepts a foreign citizenship). According to media reports Tahar took US citizenship in 2012 after a naturalization process and had used his US passport to enter Indonesia several times since 2012.
However, on Friday (14/10), President Widodo not only appointed former Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan as Indonesia's new Energy Minister, but former Energy Minister Tahar also returned, this time in the role of Deputy Energy Minister. Reportedly, his citizenship status has been recovered by the Indonesian government per 1 September 2016.
This immediately leads to the following question: given that Widodo is fond of Tahar, why did the President not simply reinstate Tahar on the position of Energy Minister?
The answer could be stubbornness or trying not to lose face. Critics of Widodo say the president has a habit of rushing into decisions without proper consideration first (there is a series of infrastructure projects that saw groundbreaking, witnessed - and perhaps forced - by Widodo, while the land acquisition process or other permitting processes were in fact not completed yet). The decision to sack Tahar could be one of these rush decisions. Perhaps it would have been easier to immediately recover his Indonesian citizenship. Possibly Widodo feared negative reactions of the population and press if he did not immediately sack Tahar. If Widodo would have reinstated Tahar as Energy Minister it could be seen as an acknowledgement that he had rushed into a (wrong) decision.
But there is another odd side to this story. It is a surprise to see former Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan back into the cabinet, this time as Energy Minister. It is an odd choice because he was sacked several months ago as transportation minister and it is not known what the real reason for this dismissal was. It is believed that his dismissal was caused by conflicting opinions (between Widodo and Jonan) regarding several infrastructure projects including the new USD $560 million terminal Ultimate at Soekarno-Hatta Airport.
While Widodo is pushing for as-fast-as-possible infrastructure development, then-Transportation Minister Jonan delayed - much to the dislike of Widodo - the opening of the new terminal Ultimate on the initial target date (20 June 2016) for various reasons (including safety matters and electricity problems). When the terminal finally opened in mid-August (most likely due to pressure from Widodo) there immediately occurred many problems, ranging from flooding, flight delays to blackouts, another embarrassing episode for the government that wants Soekarno-Hatta International Airport to compete with the world-class airports in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. About one month later Jonan was dismissed and replaced by - remarkably - Budi Karya Sumadi, the former President Director of airport operator Angkasa Pura II (which operates the new Terminal Ultimate).
Perhaps Jonan's views on matters (as well as his stubbornness) were not that bad after all and Widodo therefore felt it would be only fair to reinstate Jonan as minister. Although it may not be visible to the public eye, is also interesting to see who will be in charge of decision-making at the Energy Ministry in the next years: oil & gas professional Tahar or Jonan who has a background in finance and transportation.
One of the first big matters that the new pair at the Energy ministry will have to deal with is the mineral ore export ban that is stipulated by the 2009 Mining Law. The deadline for the full export ban may be postponed due to insufficient existing smelting capacity in Indonesia.
Cabinet of Indonesia (2014-2019)
|Vice President||Jusuf Kalla|
|Political, Legal and Security Affairs||Wiranto|
|Human Development and Culture||Puan Maharani|
|Home Affairs||Tjahjo Kumolo|
|Foreign Affairs||Retno Lestari Priansari Marsudi|
|Justice and Human Rights||Yasonna H. Laoly|
|Finance||Sri Mulyani Indrawati|
|Energy and Mineral Resources||Ignasius Jonan|
|Forestry and Environment||Siti Nurbaya|
|Transportation||Budi Karya Sumadi|
|Fishery and Maritime||Susi Pudjiastuti|
|Manpower and Transmigration||Hanif Dhakiri|
|Maritime Affairs||Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan|
|Health||Nila F. Moeloek|
|Education and Culture||Muhajir Effendi|
|Social Affairs||Khofifah Indar Parawansa|
|Religious Affairs||Lukman Hakim Saifuddin|
|Communication and Information||Rudiantara|
|Research and Technology||M. Nasir|
|Cooperatives and Small & Medium Enterprises||Anak Agung Gede Ngurah Puspayoga|
|Land & Spacial Planning||Ferry Mursyidan Baldan|
|Woman Empowerment & Children Protection||Yohana S. Yambise|
|State Administrative Reform||Asman Abnur|
|Development of Disadvantaged Regions||Eko Putro Sanjoyo|
|National Development Planning||Bambang Brodjonegoro|
|State-Owned Enterprises||Rini M. Soemarno|
|Public Works & Housing||Basuki Hadimuljono|
|Youth and Sports Affairs||Imam Nahrawi|