President Abdurrahman Wahid unveiled a new-look cabinet for Indonesia today, naming a fresh economics team unsullied by corruption scandals and taking steps to bring the armed forces under more civilian control.
The new lineup signaled a break from past, discredited governments even though a few old faces remain. The cabinet also seemed crafted to include virtually all political parties and to give more representation to outlying regions and ethnic minorities that have long felt disenfranchised by previous governments.
Two top advisers to Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, familiar to international businessmen and foreign lenders, got key economics positions. They are Laksamana Sukardi as minister for capital investment and Kwik Kian Gie as coordinating minister in charge of economic policy.
Kwik is ethnic Chinese. His appointment is likely to please Indonesia's ethnic Chinese as well as Chinese in the region who have been cautious about investing here since anti-Chinese rioting in May 1998.
The new finance minister is a little known American-trained academic, Bambang Sudibyo. He is close to Amien Rais, who chaired the assembly that elected Wahid president last Wednesday.
The Foreign Ministry went to a relative unknown, Alwi Shihab, a Muslim scholar and expert on comparative religions who studied in Cairo and at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is a Wahid confidant from the president's National Awakening Party.
"He's very learned, very sophisticated," said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, an academic who was foreign affairs adviser to Habibie. "I can't think of a better person to show the enlightened face of Islam to the Western world."
Diplomats seeing Wahid since his election had stressed the importance of starting his new term with "a clean slate," in the words of one. Fresh faces were seen as particularly crucial for the economics team because payments to a $40 billion bailout package were suspended after a banking scandal began to ensnare top finance officials from the last government of President B.J. Habibie.
The big loser appeared to be the former armed forces commander and defense minister, Gen. Wiranto. He was made coordinating minister for political affairs and security--a position that leaves him in the cabinet but with no troops under his control. He had previously been a leading contender to become vice president, or even president if the country's legislative assembly had deadlocked over the other candidates; now he has been effectively sidelined.
Wiranto's previous two jobs were split. He was replaced as armed forces commander by his deputy, Adm. Widodo Adisutjipto. The new defense minister is Juwono Sudarsono, a respected political scientist and former education minister.
Juwono, who previously headed the National Defense Institute and is considered an expert on military affairs, is Indonesia's first civilian defense minister since the 1950s, suggesting Wahid wants to bring the military under more civilian control.
"Don't think the military is crazy," Wahid said in answer to a reporter's question during the announcement of his cabinet. "They are responsible. They know the whole society is changing."
Wahid also said he and Megawati would like to meet the East Timorese independence leader, Xanana Gusmao, in Jakarta. A meeting with Gusmao, who is likely to become independent East Timor's first president, would indicate that Wahid wants to end the past bitterness and establish good relations with the breakaway province.
CAPTION: President Abdurrahman Wahid named a civilian defense minister.