Ezra Sihite & Anita Rachman
Opposition lawmakers may have previously objected to the appointment of deputy ministers, but on Monday they urged the president to quickly name a replacement for deceased Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Widjajono Partowidagdo.
Widjajono died on Saturday while climbing Mount Tambora in Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara. His death is expected to delay several government policies in those sectors given that he was considered a major architect of them.
Dewi Aryani Hilman, a member of the House of Representatives Energy Commission, said the ministry’s workload required Minister Jero Wacik to have a deputy. “The late deputy minister was the one who would explain government energy policies to the public and media. Now the minister is forced to do the job. The president should quickly appoint the replacement,” she said.
Dewi, a lawmaker from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should find an oil and energy expert with similar capacity to Widjajono to help the minister, who lacks experience in the sector.
As one of the country’s wealthiest ministries with responsibility for managing the vast energy and mining resources, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources is an institution to which many politicians are keen to have their allies appointed.
Analysts say the ministry has become a cash cow for political parties to finance campaign activities, especially in the run-up to national elections in 2014.
Since his election in 2004, Yudhoyono has appointed loyal aides to senior positions in the ministry. Jero, a businessman who ran a travel agency before entering politics as a supporter of Yudhoyono in 2004, was tourism minister until six months ago.
To help his political appointees deal with technical issues, Yudhoyono appointed several deputy ministers during his second term, which started in 2009. Six months ago, he added several more deputies when he reshuffled his cabinet.
The PDI-P and other opposition parties as well as several lawmakers in the government coalition have criticized the creation of the deputy positions, saying it was a waste of state money.
Widjajono, a professor at the Bandung Institute of Technology, was a neutral and committed public servant who balanced out the inexperienced and politically motivated Jero, analysts say.
The significance of the deputy minister has prompted opposition parties to demand Yudhoyono swiftly appoint Widjajono’s replacement.
“It’s urgent to get the replacement,” Dewi said.
Sutan Bathoegana, a senior official at Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, agreed that appointing a replacement was urgent.