Remarkable: Indonesian Energy Minister Dismissed over US Citizenship
Indonesian Energy and Mineral Resource Minister Arcandra Tahar was dismissed (honorably) from his post by President Joko Widodo on Monday (15/08) after reports surfaced that indicated Tahar holds American citizenship. Indonesian law does not recognize dual citizenship (except for persons under the age of 18 years). Tahar had only just been appointed the country's Energy Minister in a cabinet reshuffle that took place on 27 July 2016 (Tahar replaced Sudirman Said). State Secretary Pratikno announced the Tahar's dismissal in the late hours on Monday.
The situation is embarrassing. Indonesian authorities did not conduct a proper investigation whether Tahar was eligible to take on the position of Indonesian energy and mineral Resource minister, while Tahar should have known that Indonesia does not allow dual citizenship (and perhaps deliberately did not inform authorities about his US citizenship).
According to reports in local media, Tahar had lived in the US for around 20 years. After completing his PhD at the Texas A&M University (in the field of ocean engineering) in 2001, he continued to work in the USA and took US citizenship in 2012 after a naturalization process. Local media also report that he had used his US passport to enter Indonesia several times in the past. Indonesian law does not allow dual citizenship but there has never been an Indonesian citizenship revocation process for Tahar. However, Indonesians automatically lose their Indonesian citizenship when they accept citizenship of a foreign country.
Critics of Widodo say the president has a habit of rushing into decisions without proper consideration first. There have also been a number of infrastructure projects that saw groundbreaking (witnessed - and most likely forced - by Widodo) while the land acquisition process or other permitting processes were not completed yet. Examples are the Jakarta-Bandung fast train project, the Batang Power Plant and the Balikpapan-Samarinda toll road project.
Here indeed occurs a dilemma. Contrary to his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who became criticized for being an indecisive and weakish president toward the end of his administration, Widodo is eager to push for development, particularly infrastructure development. On the other hand, such rapid action can undermine human rights of locals and can cause embarrassing mistakes.
Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, has become interim Energy Minister starting from Tuesday (16/08). However, considering Pandjaitan's stake in the Toba Sejahtra Group there seemingly occurs a conflict of interest. The Toba Sejahtra Group holds four coal mining concessions, an oil and gas block on Madura as well as several power plants on Sulawesi. Therefore, it is advised that Widodo will move rapidly, yet carefully, to appoint a new Indonesian energy minister.