Thursday, September 28, 2023

'We Want Susi': Outcry as Indonesia's Celebrated Minister Departs

Heru Andriyanto
October 24, 2019 | 8:34 am
Susi Pudjiastuti on the catwalk during a charity event at Senayan City shopping center in Jakarta last year. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak)
Susi Pudjiastuti on the catwalk during a charity event at Senayan City shopping center in Jakarta last year. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak)

Jakarta. Indonesians stormed social media to express anger and regret as soon as they found out Susi Pudjiastuti, known as "the minister who blows up boats," was not among the 38 new cabinet members President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo announced on Wednesday.

The hashtag #WeWantSUSI drew thousands of tweets praising her work and her refreshingly gung-ho, casual style. Many of them demanded that Jokowi should reappoint the popular minister.

Susi's departure is creating as much public uproar as her appointment as Maritime Affairs and Fisheries minister back in 2014, but for contrasting reasons. 

Back then, the chain-smoking, tattooed high school dropout became an easy target for critics who said she was not fit for the job. 


That impression changed quickly after Susi, working closely with the Navy, started blowing up dozens of foreign boats who were caught fishing illegally in Indonesian waters during her first two years in office. 

This year alone, at least 50 foreign boats have been detained or destroyed by her ministry.

Susi's catchphrase "Tenggelamkan!" ("Sink it!") has become so iconic and the subject of thousands of internet memes. 

She won praise from nationalists in Indonesia for doing especially two things: protecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity and securing the country's maritime assets.

Susi is also the first active minister to appear on the catwalk on several occasions as a model.

Never before has the Maritime Affairs Ministry made so many headlines as during her tenure.


Susi adopted a get-tough policy against trans-shipment, or the covert transfers of catch between vessels in the middle of the sea.

She also aggressively campaigned against destructive fishing methods such as blast fishing and the use of trawlers. 

"Yesterday morning as I was watching the TV report on the cabinet announcement, I looked only for Susi's face. It turned out [the new maritime affairs minister] was a man. It really broke my heart. Please bring back my minister," @yanie_yha tweeted on Thursday.

Susi, 54, was replaced by Edhy Prabowo, a politician from the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and a close personal friend of Prabowo Subianto, Jokowi's arch-rival who is now Indonesia's new defense minister.

A photo of an exhausted Susi sleeping on a couch was posted on Twitter with the caption: "Dear my president, please."

Another account posted a video of Susi delivering her acceptance speech for an honorary doctoral degree from Diponegoro University in Semarang, Central Java.

In the video, recorded in December 2016, a tearful Susi thanked Jokowi for trusting her to lead a ministry despite her "low education." 

She recalled how Jokowi often joked he only found out about her from Google.

Susi remained respectful to the president even though the new cabinet was installed without her. 

"I realize I don't have a high education. Becoming a minister – that's a once in a lifetime opportunity. I don't think I'm going to get a second chance," she said in an interview with Kompas TV aired on Wednesday.

"I just appreciate what I have now and what I have done, and I'm very happy. If the president needs me again, of course I have to be ready. But even if he doesn't, I'm still very honored I've served him as a minister – something that seemed so impossible I never even dreamed of it," Susi said. 

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