“[…] I am sure the two, once again, are figures with competence. Although I know both are stubborn, they like going into the field,” President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said on Friday, regarding Ignasius Jonan and Arcandra Tahar.
The President was providing the rationale for his decision to reappoint Ignasius and Arcandra as Cabinet members, less than three months after both were removed from their positions.
In a surprise move, Jokowi announced and later inducted Jonan as energy and mineral resources minister and Arcandra as his deputy.
Jonan was sacked from his position as transportation minister in the latest Cabinet shake-up in August, a move that many deemed as punishment for his penchant for putting stumbling blocks in the way of Jokowi’s policies, including the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway network construction.
Arcandra was removed from his position as energy and mineral resources minister after only 19 days in office following a controversy surrounding his US citizenship.
Although Jokowi cited Jonan and Arcandra’s professionalism and skills, traits that are essential for carrying out “sweeping reform” at the graft-ridden ministry, many considered the decision ill-advised given that second fiddle Arcandra has far more extensive knowledge on the oil and gas sector than his boss.
Jonan has zero experience in oil and gas as well as the mining sector. He gained his reputation as the no-nonsense director of state-owned railway company KAI and was credited with revamping the country’s railway services, which is believed to be one of the reasons Jokowi picked him to be transportation minister.
Jokowi told reporters after the swearing-in ceremony that his decision to pair Jonan and Arcandra “was for the sake [of bringing better] management” to the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, hinting that collaboration between the two figures would be crucial.
In an apparent show of unity, Jonan and Arcandra traveled together in an official chauffeured vehicle from the State Palace to the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry in Central Jakarta.
Jokowi called on the public to not politicize the reappointment of Jonan and Arcandra.
“Let’s not draw it into personal issues or politics,” Jokowi said. “Although it is not an easy task, I am sure that the two, the minister and the deputy, will be able to solve current problems at the energy ministry and bring good teamwork.”
The appointment of Arcandra was made possible after Jokowi brought back the post of deputy energy and mineral resources minister, which was scrapped when he took office in October 2014.
As deputy minister, Arcandra will have no authority to issue policies, and is expected to help Jonan in drafting his future policies.
Jonan said he would rely on Arcandra in running the ministry.
“Well, I have Arcandra here,” Jonan said when asked about his ability to run the problem-prone ministry.
Arcandra, meanwhile, shrugged off the suggestion that Jokowi had tried to find ways to accommodate him in the Cabinet, saying: “The President has his own considerations when it comes to the energy ministry.”
It was apparent that the decision to reassign Jonan and Arcandra was made in haste.
They were sworn in shortly before Jokowi took off to West Kalimantan for a working visit, and visibly absent at the ceremony was Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who was on a working visit to Makassar.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, who was also the interim energy minister, did not attend the ceremony.
Multiple sources claimed that Jonan and Arcandra were notified about the inauguration only hours before the ceremony took place.
In fact, Jokowi had earlier decided to appoint Jonan as the person in charge of a holding firm for state-owned companies.
Presidential spokesman Johan Budi said Jokowi had consulted a number of key players in his administration, including Kalla and Luhut, and that their absence at the inauguration was simply due to scheduling conflicts.