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Controversial cleric retains position as presidential adviser
Erwida Maulia, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono inaugurated on Monday nine members of the presidential advisory board, retaining the position of a controversial Muslim cleric who supported the banning of Jamaah Ahmadiyah.
Ma’ruf Amin, former chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) who issued a fatwa banning liberalism and pluralism after heading the council’s fatwa commission, is among the old faces staying in the board, along with the country’s environmental guru Emil Salim.
Both served on the board during the President’s first term.
Among the new advisers are former health minister Siti Fadillah Supari, former coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs Widodo A. S., former foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda, and former state minister for women’s empowerment Meutia Hatta.
Others are Ryaas Rasyid, former state minister for regional autonomy during Abdurrahman Wahid’s presidency in early 2000s, former speaker of Regional Representatives Council (DPD) Ginandjar Kartasasmita and former Constitutional Court chief Jimly Asshiddiqie.
The former advisers were the late Ali Alatas, Adnan Buyung Nasution, Subur Budi Santoso, TB Silalahi, Rahmawati, Syahrir and Abdul Ghafur Lahode.
Political observer Mohammad Qodari from poll agency Indobarometer considered Yudhoyono’s decision to appoint his new nine advisers as quite agreeable in the way that they covered fields in which the President would require counsel.
Legal, health, foreign, women’s, security, regional autonomy, economy and religion issues have been covered by the new figures, Qodari said.
“I believe, however, that the President should appoint advisers that can help him with education, technology and industry issues.”
Qodari said Yudhoyono’s decision to retain Emil and Ma’ruf was understandable, citing Emil’s recognized expertise in economic and environmental issues and Ma’ruf’s “strategic” position in the MUI.
Public policy expert from University of Indonesia, Andrinof Chaniago, however, lamented that the appointment of some of the new advisers was based more on political considerations instead of abilities.
“That is Yudohyono’s weakness. He places too much emphasis on political symbolism and representation, when he should choose people based on their experience and abilities to improve the government and benefit his own performance.”
Andrinof declined to share the names of those he considered unsuitable for their positions.
Jimly was upbeat that the new board could work effectively in advising the President on the execution of his duties.
“To give advice effectively depends on the way you convey the message. There is an art to it.”