Vice Adm. (ret) Freddy Numberi, the newly elected minister of transportation, can boast at least three things his fellow members of the cabinet cannot — he is from Papua, has been awarded Italy’s highest-ranking civilian medal and has a fish named in his honor.
Born in Serui, a small city on the remote island of Yapen in the country’s easternmost province, Freddy, 62, began his career in the Navy in 1969.
He made his way up the ranks, serving as the commander of the Sembilang warship in 1985, before climbing even further to head the Maluku-Irian Jaya Naval Base for two years from 1996.
But a political calling beckoned, with Freddy becoming the governor of then Irian Jaya Province from 1998 to 2000. During President Abdurrahman Wahid’s administration, Freddy was made the State Minister for Administrative Reform.
After just 10 months at the ministry, Freddy was replaced by Ryaas Rasyid, but he went on to become an ambassador to Italy, Malta and Albania in 2002. In 2006, Freddy was bestowed the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, in recognition of his services to Italy.
In 2004, Freddy, who was affiliated with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, was appointed to head the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
In May this year, at the time of the World Ocean Conference in Manado, North Sulawesi, two ecologists from Conservation International, an environmental group, found a new species of whiptail fish in the Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua. They named the species Pentapodus Numberii, after Freddy, to honor his efforts in managing ecosystems across the country’s vast seas and coasts.
In that same month, Freddy launched his book, “Climate Change: Its Implications on Ecosystems on the Sea, Coast and Small Islands,” which addressed global climate issues and their impact on island nations such as Indonesia.
In September, however, Freddy came under the spotlight over the alleged sale of three islets in the Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra, following reports that there had been an advertisement on an overseas-based Web site.
Freddy said the islands were not for sale, but leased to developers who wished to build resorts. He admitted, however, that there were flaws in the permit mechanism because developers tended to build their resorts first before applying for permits from the regional government.
Freddy’s leadership of the fisheries ministry has also drawn criticism, with Riza Damanik, secretary general of the Fisheries Justice Coalition (Kiara), describing his tenure as minister over the past five years as mediocre. “It was nothing special. Even the protected areas that were established by his predecessors, including Sarwono [Kusumaatmadja] and Rokhmin [Dahuri], were destroyed,” he said.
Furthermore, Riza said Freddy had failed as minister because he did not accommodate or connect with fishing communities, who were supposed to be his main focus, and lacked transparency in his policies.
“He managed to build the image that oceans should get more attention at the national and international level, such as with the World Ocean Conference, however, for the most part, he did nothing to change or protect the livelihoods of our fishermen, considering they are counted among the most poor in the nation,” he said.
“But as we can see now, under his leadership, he was building more intensive links with private interests. For instance, regulations to allow trawlers and even in giving away concessions for coastal areas.”
After being appointed transportation minister, Freddy declined to outline his plans for his first 100 days. However, he did say at the official hand over of the portfolio that he planned to continue the “Road Map to Zero Accidents” program, which was initiated by his predecessor, Jusman Syafii Djamal, to reduce the number of road accidents.
Freddy also said he would work on revamping the country’s transportation sector, although he did not elaborate. Establishing a functioning coast guard, however, has been a priority issue for the ministry.
Freddy is married to Anna Antoinette and has two daughters, Greez Natalia and Frisca Lucinda. Despite the ministerial privilege of being provided a residence in Central Jakarta, Freddy has chosen to stay at his family home in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta. Putri Prameshwari, Fidelis E Satriastanti & Arti Ekawati