Mere days after the announcement of a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle, President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla were forced to publicly defend their signature programs ̶ electricity development and purchase of airplanes ̶ from attack by a new senior minister.
This is not only humiliating for both Joko and Kalla, but also shows how disunited the cabinet is.
Newly-appointed Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli told local media early this week that the president's 30 megawatt power project was an ambitious and unrealistic plan, claiming it was just another one of Kalla's personal projects.
While the outspoken minister may be right, as it is not a secret that Kalla is behind the endeavor, it's a statement made to publicly attack the vice president, and was indirectly aimed toward the president as Joko inaugurated the project. And as electricity is not part of Rizal's portfolio, observers question why he would make such an antagonistic statement on the issue and stir anger amongst his peers.
Instead of summoning the newly appointed minister, both Joko and Kalla made a statement though the media, defending the project and criticizing Rizal, who subsequently hit back by challenging Kalla to conduct a public debate on the matter.
As both parties continue to throw verbal punches to justify themselves, the entire debacle becomes an embarrassing war or words that may have a ruinous impact on the market and discourage foreign investors from sinking their money into the country ̶ despite Joko's efforts to reinstall public trust in his struggling administration.
This latest irresponsible and childish display is the last thing the newly revamped cabinet needs amid a slumping economy and increasing public mistrust of the government. How can the administration expect to deliver if its officials insist on wasting time verbally bashing each other?
What little hope we had left in Joko's ambitious infrastructure projects have been completely dashed by the humiliating internal squabble. Going forward, we Indonesians will only accept concrete and tangible results from this government: a strengthening rupiah, faster economic growth and more foreign investment.
Anything short of these will be viewed as failure.