January 24, 2024
JAKARTA – The brief appointment of Communications and Information Minister Budi Arie Setiadi as interim foreign minister has raised eyebrows amid reports of a cabinet split, even though the Foreign Ministry has waved off the issue and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has insisted that his government remains united.
Budi is to serve in the interim post from Jan. 21 to 22, when Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi is attending the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Gaza at the UN headquarters in New York.
The Foreign Ministry said appointing a caretaker at such times was standard protocol.
“This is an ordinary thing in the government when a minister is not in Indonesia. [Retno] herself has been an interim minister many times,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lalu Muhamad Iqbal said on Sunday.
For example, Iqbal said, Home Minister Tito Karavan was appointed as interim foreign minister for around one week during Retno’s Africa tour last year.
The foreign minister is currently in New York for the UNSC meeting. At the end of the month, she is scheduled to attend an ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Laos.
Over the weekend, Deputy Foreign Minister Pahala Mansury has been leading the Indonesian delegation at the 19th Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) Summit in Kampala, Uganda, to promote the Palestinian cause.
Budi’s interim appointment comes after last week’s mounting speculation that 15 ministers, most notably Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, were planning to resign less than a month before the general election over concerns of government ethics breaches.
The rumor emerged after Faisal Basri, a senior economist at the University of Indonesia, called for the resignation of several ministers in Jokowi’s cabinet and named Retno among the 15 ministers that could quit.
The resignation rumor also comes on the heels of the deteriorating ties between Jokowi and Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) matriarch Megawati Soekarnoputri, which reached their lowest point when the President allowed his son Gibran Rakabuming Raka to join the presidential ticket of Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto against PDI-P candidate Ganjar Pranowo.
Several cabinet minister allegedly irked by the move, seeing it as the President’s attempt to cling to power through his son as a proxy.
The timing of Budi’s interim foreign minister appointment became a talking point on social media, where netizens continue to speculate that Jokowi’s cabinet has become more fragmented.
The majority of ministers caught up in the resignation rumor have yet to confirm or deny the allegation so far. Sri Mulyani has swept aside media questions by replying, “I’m working,” while Retno has reportedly dodged giving a clear answer by saying she was preoccupied with her overseas schedule.
Meanwhile, the President and his office have denied the rumor, saying the cabinet remains solid.
“Where did this news come from? From morning until evening, we hold plenary, internal and limited meetings,” Jokowi said on Saturday after attending a Nahdlatul Ulama event in Jakarta, as quoted by Kompas.com.