Now that Indonesia’s president has personally seen and been moved to tears over the devastated lives of the thousands of families affected by the mudflow delivered to their homes courtesy of Bakrie-owned Lapindo Brantas Inc., he has decided to order the company to do the what they should have done months ago. Perhaps he will finally consider making a decision that he should have made a long time ago.
Even Yudhoyono must be convinced by now that Aburizal Bakrie is more of a liability to the nation than he is an asset. Bakrie’s continued presence in the post of Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for the People’s Welfare clearly does not serve the interests of the cabinet, the government, or the people of Indonesia. The only interests served by the continued presence of Bakrie in that senior and completely inappropriate post are Bakrie’s own and, to a rapidly diminishing degree, the partisan political interests that saw him appointed in the first place.
A former coordinating minister of the economy, Bakrie should have been eliminated from the cabinet in SBY’s first limited cabinet reshuffle. Instead, he was moved over to the equally senior position he currently holds.The post of coordinating minister for the people’s welfare is one that requires, among many other things, a genuine concern for the well-being of the marginalized, the disenfranchised, the suffering victims of natural and man-made disasters. When looking about for a person with that quality and those concerns, the name Aburizal Bakrie doesn’t exactly leap to most people’s minds. In fact, if one were to try to name the least suitable candidate for that position, one could be forgiven for thinking of Bakrie.
Simply being a failure at the economics portfolio in does not give one sufficient credentials for taking the helm of the People’s Welfare Ministry; if it did, Bakrie would be eminently qualified. Bakrie ran the economics portfolio during Abdurrahman (Gus Dur) Wahid’s tenure and guided Indonesia to the worst economic performance in the country’s history.
A Golkar executive and a vastly wealthy tycoon in a family-owned business, he was appointed to the same economics portfolio by SBY to appease the powerful party and the remaining Soeharto loyalists. He was on track to reprise his dismal performance when he was given his parallel promotion and replaced by Boediono, someone with genuine economics credentials.
Patrick Guntensperger, Jakarta Post
But all that having been said, perhaps the biggest barrier to Bakrie’s effectiveness as a minister of the Indonesian cabinet is his utterly unrepentant attitude regarding a conflict of interest that leaves him with zero credibility outside of Indonesia and very little within the archipelago.
Bakrie being the senior cabinet member responsible for the welfare of the thousands upon thousands of people whose homes, villages, and livelihoods have been wiped out by a disaster caused by a company he controls, would be unthinkable in most democratic countries.
Indonesia’s reputation as a haven for cronyism is maintained and enhanced by his remaining in any political office, let alone that particular one. Now that the president has personally seen the depth of the horror precipitated by Lapindo and the inexcusable foot-dragging that characterizes the promised compensation, he has finally taken legal steps to order the responsible parties to do the right thing. The blatant conflict of interest Bakrie is immersed in can no longer be ignored.
The people of Indonesia can clearly see that Bakrie brings few things in terms of skills, commitment to the country or its people, or anything else of value to the table. Many Indonesians see that Bakrie holds a post in which his presence is actually a grotesque detriment to the people’s welfare.
Perhaps only few people would be sorry to see him go. It should go without saying that a man of integrity in Bakrie’s position would have alleviated a great deal of pain by having offered his resignation as soon as the conflict became apparent.
If SBY were to dismiss Bakrie from the cabinet not even the staunchest Golkar supporter could argue with a straight face that the decision was inappropriate. Even as a political token, Bakrie may have lost his value.
The writer is a Jakarta-based social and political commentator, lecturer, and consultant. He may be reached at email@example.com
Posted by Kerry B Collison in Eye on Asia at 08:30