Yudhoyono’s proposed ambassadors raises eyebrows

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has submitted to the House of Representatives the names of candidates for the new Indonesian ambassadors, some of whom observers said may not be suitable for the job.

Among the 22 candidates are legal practitioner and former lawmaker Yusron Ihza Mahendra and former Jakarta governor Fauzi Bowo, who will be posted in Tokyo and Berlin, respectively.

Yusron, seen as having no significant business expertise particularly given Japan’s status as Indonesia’s second biggest trading partner, will replace Muhammad Lutfi, a businessman who formerly served as the chairman of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM).

The President also proposed Nurul Qomar, a former comedian who is now a lawmaker also from the Democratic Party, as Indonesia’s ambassador to Brunei Darussalam.

Qomar has four wives and once sparked public outcry for saying to the media that he wanted to have at least one wife in each of Indonesia’s 34 provinces, a statement he later claimed was merely a joke.

Yusron, Fauzi and Qomar, along with 19 other new envoy candidates, attended a briefing led by Deputy Foreign Minister Wardana at the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

Yusron said he deserved the position because Japan is no stranger to him. “I spent 12 years in Japan. My masters and doctorate degrees are from Japanese universities,” he said, as quoted by tempo.co. Yusron also once worked for Kompas as a correspondent in Japan.

As for Fauzi, political observer from the University of Indonesia, Donny Gahral Adian, said he doubted the former governor’s diplomacy skills regardless of the fact he had spent several years in Germany to achieve his doctorate degree on urban planning. “Many Jakartans would agree that Fauzi has a temperamental character which is not suitable for diplomatic missions,” he said.

But Democratic Party deputy secretary-general Ramadhan Pohan defended Yudhoyono’s decision. “[Fauzi] has strong knowledge on Germany and its culture. He also speaks fluent German,” he said.

Golkar lawmaker Tantowi Yahya urged the President to pay serious attention to the House’s recommendation on the candidates. “As mandated by the law, the House will issue recommendations after interviewing all 22 candidates. We want the government to pick the best people because ambassadors are this country’s official representation.”

“Last year, we considered 11 out of 34 ambassador candidates proposed by the government as incompetent and therefore should be turned down. However, the President still inaugurated most of the 11. It’s like downplaying the House’s hard work and I hope that will not happen this time,” Tantowi added.

Foreign Ministry’s secretary-general Budi Bowoleksono, meanwhile, has been nominated as the replacement of Dino Patti Djalal, whose term as the ambassador to the US will end later this year.

Sugeng Rahardjo, the ministry’s inspector general, has been proposed as the new ambassador to China. Sugeng is expected to replace Imron Cotan, Budi’s predecessor as ministry secretary general who was once implicated in a corruption case at the ministry.

Yudhoyono’s pick

1. Fauzi Bowo (Germany) former Jakarta governor and Democratic Party patron
2. Suprapto Martosetomo (South Africa) Ambassador to Vatican/foreign minister’s special staff
3. Yuli Mumpuni (Spain) secretary to youth and Sports Minister.
4. Yusron Ihza Mahendra (Japan) former lawmaker from the Star and Crescent Party
5. Budi Bowoleksono (US) Foreign Ministry’s secretary-general/former ambassador to Kenya
6. Linggawaty Hakim (Switzerland) acting director general of legal affairs and international treaties/former ambassador to Sweden
7. Comr. Gen. (ret.) Ito Sumardi (Myanmar) former National Police chief detective
8. Lt. Gen. (ret.) Jhony Lumintang (the Philippines) former commander of the Army’s Strategic Reserves Command
9. Yuwono A. Putranto (Norway) Deputy Ambassador to Italy
10. Raudin Anwar (Libya) secretary to the directorate general of legal affairs and international treaties
11. Abdurrahman M. Fachir (Saudi Arabia) director general of public information and diplomacy
12. Jose Antonio Morato Tavares (New Zealand) director for communication partners at the ASEAN directorate general
13. Irmawan Emir Wisnandar (Laos) director for functional cooperation at the ASEAN directorate general
14. Sugeng Rahardjo (China) Foreign Ministry inspector general/former ambassador to South Africa
15. Burhanuddin (Sudan) director for Asia and Middle East/former deputy ambassador to Egypt
16. Nurul Qomar (Brunei Darussalam) Democratic Party lawmaker
17. Gary Rachman Makmun Jusuf (Fiji) Indonesia’s consul general in Sydney
18. Rahmat Pramono (ASEAN permanent representative) director of economic cooperation at the ASEAN directorate general
19. Diar Nurbintoro (Romania) director of legal at the directorate general of legal affairs and international treaties
20. Mulya Wirana (Portugal) Deputy Ambassador to Malaysia
21. Pitono Purnomo (Cambodia) head of policy analysis and development agency at the Foreign Ministry/former ambassador to Vietnam
22. Moenir Ari Soenanda (Peru) deputy ambassador to Russia/former Indonesia’s consul general in Penang

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