Former Jakarta governor returns to public office

Ahok to become president commissioner of state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina

A file photo of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in February, following his release from jail. Mr Basuki was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A file photo of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama in February, following his release from jail. Mr Basuki was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, has made a comeback to public office, more than two years after he was convicted of blasphemy.

He will take up the role of president commissioner of Indonesia's state oil and gas company Pertamina, State-owned Enterprise Minister Erick Thohir told reporters yesterday. Pertamina is one of the country's most strategic state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that has often been plagued by inefficiency and corruption.

President Joko Widodo's government is currently selecting leaders to help reform the active SOE sector, which has played an important role in the economy, although some quarters have said that the country's SOEs have crowded out private investment.

Another high-level appointment, former anti-graft commissioner Chandra Hamzah, will be tasked to help keep watch over state-owned Bank Tabungan Negara as its president commissioner.

Other figures who may fill the top posts at SOEs include former communications and information minister Rudiantara, who may serve as the president director of state power company PLN.

Corporate organisational layout in Indonesia differs slightly from that in many other countries. Indonesian companies have what is locally termed as the Board of Commissioners (BOC).

Chaired by a president commissioner, the BOC supervises management policies and advises the Board of Directors (BOD).

The chief executive officer, referred to as the president director in Indonesia, chairs the BOD, which is mostly responsible for the company's management and operations.

The SOE ministry, which oversees Indonesia's 115 state-owned and state-controlled companies, is currently doing an internal restructuring to streamline bureaucracy.

 
 
 
 

Earlier this week, Mr Erick scrapped six senior assistant-to-minister positions, which had the role of supervising the different SOEs operating in sectors that range from transportation and finance to service and construction.

The latest move would pave the way for the supervision of the SOEs to be shifted from the ministry to each of the SOEs' BOC, which would have greater authority and veto powers over key strategic decisions taken by the BOD.

Mr Basuki battled corruption and improved healthcare when he was Jakarta governor between 2014 and 2017.

Under his leadership, the city administration had the most transparent annual spending budget system, making detailed spending items accessible online, allowing the public to help monitor and make early detection of any irregular spending plan.

But known for his blunt remarks and unforgiving attitude towards underperforming civil servants while in office, Mr Basuki has faced resistance from the head of Pertamina employees' association. Mr Arie Gumilar claimed that the former Jakarta governor would demoralise employees and, in turn, affect the distribution of petrol to fuelling stations, which is one of Pertamina's main tasks.

Mr Basuki, an ethnic-Chinese Christian, was accused of blasphemy after he made a speech in September 2016 that referred to a Quranic verse. He was convicted and later sentenced to two years' jail in 2017 for blasphemy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2019, with the headline 'Former Jakarta governor returns to public office'. Subscribe