Indonesian president adds seasoned politician, former military head to Cabinet

Indonesia President Joko Widodo (centre) speaking to the media with newly inaugurated Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan (left) and Minister of Agrarian Affairs and Spatial Planning Hadi Tjahjanto on June 15, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Wednesday (June 15) appointed seasoned politician Zulkifli Hasan as trade minister, and former armed forces commander Hadi Tjahjanto as his new minister for agrarian affairs and spatial planning.

Mr Zulkifli, 59, who only recently joined the ruling coalition, is the chairman of the Islamic-leaning National Mandate Party, or PAN. He is currently deputy speaker of the People's Representative Assembly (MPR).

He served as forestry minister from 2009 to 2014 under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. PAN, which was in the opposition, jumped over to the ruling coalition in late August.

Mr Widodo had been unhappy with the current trade minister, Mr Muhammad Lutfi, for not being able to curb rising cooking oil prices at home.

Cooking oil prices were capped in February in an effort to bring prices down, but that prompted traders to hoard their stocks, leading to shortages and spawning criticism against Mr Widodo’s administration.

“My long experience will contribute to efforts to ensure the availability of cooking oil anywhere (in Indonesia),” Mr Zulkifli told reporters after he was inaugurated by Mr Widodo.

Meanwhile, Mr Hadi, 58, will take over from Mr Sofyan Djalil as the minister of agrarian affairs and spatial planning.

Former air chief marshal Hadi retired last November as commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces and has continued to give advice on various issues to the government.

Earlier this year, he was tasked to oversee the Mandalika international MotoGP street circuit race in Indonesia's Lombok island by 2024.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mr Hadi said: “My job is firstly to address the backlog in the issuance of land titles to the people, secondly, rampant land disputes, and thirdly, any land issue for the planned new administrative capital.” 

Indonesia is planning to move its capital from Jakarta on Java island to a new city named Nusantara in East Kalimantan province on Borneo island.

After the new ministers were sworn in, Mr Widodo told reporters: “We considered everything – their track record, experience, and especially their managerial skills. We need detail-oriented, hands-on people.”

The President also appointed three deputy ministers, including Mr Raja Juli Antoni of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI). In 2017, the party had backed Chinese-Christian Basuki Tjahaja Purnama's unsuccessful bid to seek re-election as Jakarta's governor.

Mr Antoni has been appointed the deputy minister for agrarian and spatial planning.

All the new appointments take effect immediately.

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