Editorial: Jokowi Shows That He’s No Puppet President

JANUARY 02, 2015

After a long delay because of strong resistance from his coalition partners and many in his Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, President Joko Widodo finally inaugurated Luhut Binsar Panjaitan as his chief of staff.

Make no mistake, considering his portfolio, this is practically the number-two position — after Joko himself — in the presidential office. Luhut will ensure that the cabinet can implement all Joko’s policies smoothly, and clear all resistance from the House of Representatives.

For Joko, this is a key appointment, albeit a risky one. The fact that he took a political gamble and even went against PDI-P chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, who is known to have had a spat with Luhut in the past, shows that he badly needs Luhut to guard his back as well as the retired three-star Army general’s recognized credentials in a wide range of areas.

Luhut, a former trade and industry minister and former deputy chief patron of Golkar, has all the experience and political and military connections. He is not only well versed in politics, public policy, defense and strategic affairs, but also knowledgeable about the economy, industry and trade.

As a former ambassador to Singapore, he is no stranger to international politics either.

Thus, Luhut is a complete package and if there is any figure in Indonesia that can significantly strengthen Joko’s administration, it will be him.

Joko’s bold move to appoint Luhut also shows his independence from the PDI-P and Megawati, who made no secret of her anger towards Luhut for rejecting her request to resign from the cabinet of then-President Abdurrahman Wahid in 2001 to make way for her to become president.

Joko has proven that he is the real president and that he will forge ahead for a better Indonesia.