Jokowi under pressure to reshuffle Cabinet

But Indonesian leader says it is difficult to find people he can trust to place in key posts

President Joko Widodo at the swearing-in ceremony of General Gatot Nurmantyo (right) as armed forces chief at the presidential palace in Jakarta this week.
President Joko Widodo at the swearing-in ceremony of General Gatot Nurmantyo (right) as armed forces chief at the presidential palace in Jakarta this week. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JAKARTA • Indonesian President Joko Widodo has said that he is looking for people he can trust to take up key posts in his administration - the strongest indication yet that a Cabinet reshuffle may be on the cards.

At a meeting with chief editors of Indonesia's major news organisations in Jakarta on Thursday, Mr Joko said: "I need staffers I can trust... My (ideal) staffers would be those who, when they speak, the public believes them, investors believe them, the markets believe them. Their words are irrefutable."

He said it is hard to find such people and did not give any names, reported the Jakarta Globe.

Mr Joko, 54, is the first Indonesian president elected from outside the established military and political elite.

He has struggled to govern effectively since he took office last October pledging to spur an economy growing at its slowest pace in more than five years.

He does not have a presidential spokesman, which has led to substantial discrepancies between his statements and those made by Vice-President Jusuf Kalla and some ministers. That in turn has fuelled distrust among constituents and overseas investors.

The President conceded that he needs a credible spokesman.

"It is not easy to look for a suitable spokesman. I have been looking... but I haven't found one," he was quoted as saying by the Globe.

Mr Joko is under pressure to improve the government's performance by reshuffling his Cabinet, which is a mix of politicians from parties that supported his presidential bid and professional experts. But he declined to say whether it will happen.

"I never mentioned a reshuffle; the press keeps talking about a reshuffle," he said.

He did, however, acknowledge some of the arguments from analysts and experts calling for a Cabinet shake-up.

"I admit that our economy is slowing down. I am trying (to address it) day and night," the Globe quoted him as saying.

Political observer Cecep Hidayat of the University of Indonesia said there is "no unity in the Cabinet", with some ministers even issuing policies that went against the President's instructions.

"If Joko indeed plans to reshuffle his ministers, he should consider this matter carefully and thoroughly so he won't make the same mistakes again, particularly in the economic and defence sectors and in the coordination posts," Mr Cecep said.

In May, Mr Luhut Panjaitan, the President's chief of staff, said ministerial changes could come after the Eid al-Fitr holiday this month, reported Bloomberg.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2015, with the headline Jokowi under pressure to reshuffle Cabinet. Subscribe