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MAY 26, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 20 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

'The Cabinet Is Not Solid'
Sukardi on his ouster and his former boss

A respected reformist in President Wahid's cabinet, Laksamana Sukardi was controversially dismissed as minister for investment and state enterprises on April 24. Sukardi claims vested interests were behind his sacking and is demanding clarification from Gus Dur (as Wahid is popularly known). He recently gave his views on the matter to Asiaweek's Dewi Loveard. Excerpts from the talk:

Before you were fired, your relationship with the president was said to be not very smooth. Can you explain?
Yes, there were a lot of rumors defaming me, such as that I spent a lot of time traveling abroad. After my dismissal, it was alleged that I put two corrupt officials into my ministry. Unfortunately, the president heard the whispers from somebody else, whom I can't mention by name here. Even though I explained everything, his decision was still different from what I expected.

Many people were saying that you concentrated more on past corruption cases rather than on how to improve foreign investment.
I've done a lot of campaigns and promoted license simplification. We're also preparing state-owned companies for privatization, but the implementation depends on the market. The market will not buy stakes if the board of management and the government are not clear of corruption. Political stability and just and fair law enforcement play a big role. That's the reason I pushed for good corporate governance. But I found a lot of interference. I cannot go into details.

If your work was really on track, why do you think you were fired?
Maybe because I am too rigid. I have no tolerance for corruption. I have never disbursed any money sourced from state-owned companies to any political parties. If I have condemned corruption in the past, it is to make the life of Indonesians better.

If Gus Dur refuses to make any clarification about you, what will you do?
I will file a lawsuit against the president. It will be a good exercise in telling Indonesians to be careful in making accusations. At the same time, it will show the foreign community that there is rule of law in Indonesia.

If Gus Dur were to offer you another position in the government, would you accept it?
I would take it if it was a gesture of apology or if Gus Dur has explained to the public first whether I am right or wrong. At one stage, I was offered the ambassadorship to Switzerland, but I refused. It would have been an exile posting. I am a professional and I love my country and my people, and I hope I can do something for them.

What do you think of Gus Dur's leadership?
He is a good man with a handicap. A lot of people try to get close to him and whisper something to him, and we don't know the truth behind the whispers. I personally don't think the cabinet is solid. How can it be solid when we are shaken with rumors? The cabinet has no program. Everything is ad hoc and impromptu.

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