JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo on Friday appointed former transportation minister Ignasius Jonan as Energy and Mineral Resources Minister, a newcomer to the resources sector and the fourth person to hold the high-profile post since July.
Widodo removed Luhut Pandjaitan as acting energy and mining minister and appointed Pandjaitan’s predecessor, Arcandra Tahar, as deputy minister. Pandjaitan will, however, continue to oversee the sector as Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister.
“I am certain the two of them are the right professional figures with the competence to carry out wide reforms in energy and mining,” President Widodo told reporters after the inauguration ceremony.
The appointment came as a surprise for many. Jonan, a former banker and chief executive of state railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia, said he had only learned about the posting two-and-a-half hours beforehand and did not have any prior experience in energy or mining.
Tahar, a former executive at a U.S.-based energy company, was removed from the position of energy minister in mid-August after less than a month on the job, amid controversy and reports he held both Indonesian and U.S. citizenship.
In his comments, President Widodo attempted to downplay any controversy arising from picking the two men.
“This is a management issue. Please don’t make this into a personal or political issue,” Widodo said, adding that he knows both Jonan and Tahar to be “stubborn” and “like to go directly into the field”.
Tahar told reporters the citizenship issues were now resolved, without providing further details.
Jonan is also no stranger to controversy. Last year, Widodo publicly rebuked him for a clamp down on ride-hailing services. Many also criticized him for his policies when handling the transportation sector.
Political analyst Paul Rowland said Jonan’s experience and record as a corruption-free minister were valuable, but the decision to reappoint him as energy minister where specialized expertise were needed was puzzling.
“Ostensibly one of the reasons he was removed from Cabinet was not being able to play along in the sandbox with others,” he said. “Unless in the past two months he’s developed an aversion to stepping out of line one wonders why he would be brought back in,”
The pair will need to get up to speed quickly, with parliamentary revisions underway of laws on both mining and oil and gas, including controversial mineral export rules and efforts to revive flagging oil output.
Additional reporting by Wilda Asmarini, Bernadette Christina Munthe and Fergus Jensen; Editing by Christian Schmollinger