Wed, Jan 03, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Resignation of vital minster ruffles Wahid

HITTING THE BUFFERS An official instrumental to organizing the plan to bring autonomy to some Indonesian regions, has tendered his resignation

AFP , JAKARTA

The Indonesian government's move to devolve more powers to its restive provinces got off to a rocky start yesterday, with the protest resignation of one of the key ministers charged with preparing and implementing the plan.

Just one day after Jakarta, without fanfare, ushered in the regional autonomy package on New Year's Day, Minister for Government Personnel and Administrative Reforms, Ryaas Rasyid, tendered his resignation to President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Rasyid cited "differences of ideas" with Wahid over the formation of a special agency on regional autonomy policies as one of the main reasons for quitting the Cabinet.

"I have long proposed the need of a special agency to handle regional autonomy policies. He [Wahid] was of the opinion that such an agency was needed ... however it is different than what I proposed," Rasyid said.

The president has so far assigned the preparation of regional autonomy to a directorate general of the home affairs ministry.

Critics have said the directorate general would have insufficient leverage to garner cooperation from ministries and institutions.

Andi Malarangeng, an expert in regional autonomy at the home affairs ministry, said Rasyid's resignation was "a great loss" to Wahid's government, calling him a "professional with clear vision."

"There's no way a directorate general can coordinate policies of other ministries," he added, agreeing with Rasyid's viewpoint.

Rasyid said Wahid was studying his resignation proposal but the chances of the president insisting he stayed on were "very small."

Rasyid was deeply involved in preparing the laws on regional autonomy and on fiscal equity, the foundations of the drive to accord political and economic autonomy to the country's 29 provinces and more than 300 districts.

Another minister key to the autonomy preparations, Bambang Sudibyo, lost his post in a Cabinet reshuffle in August.

Under the scheme the regions hold the power to appoint their own leaders and to prepare and administer their own budgets.

But the government will cut subsidies to the provinces and retain some 40 percent of the provincial tax income.

It will also retain authority in foreign, defense and monetary affairs as well as in justice.

Rasyid has made it clear that he feels there are inadequate laws in place to ensure the success of the scheme.

"I am pessimistic ... with the absence of necessary regulations and presidential decrees to enforce the laws ... it will only burden the people," he told the Jakarta Post.

Jakarta has issued a total of 16 government regulations to support the autonomy move, but Rasyid said more than 100 presidential decrees were still needed to implement them.

But he said the lack of decrees should not result in chaos, telling the daily Bisnis Indonesia, that he saw one of two scenarios -- either provincial and district authorities would be overly creative, issuing their own local decrees, or just remain passive.

He also aired fears that the lack of laws and regulations, would result in the corrupt practices prevailing in the central government spreading to the regions.

Rasyid also criticized local politicians for emphasizing their bigger share of the pie and ability to raise revenue, rather than their obligations.

"They forget their obligation to provide better services to the public and to empower the people," he said, according to the Jakarta Post.

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