Tjahjo Kumolo criticised for likening ministers to “king’s helpers”

Human rights activists have criticised Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo for likening cabinet members to a king’s helpers.  

Tjahjo revealed on Sunday that a certain minister had been caught on tape making remarks belittling President Joko Widodo.

“There is a certain minister who likes to belittle the president behind his back, who does not thank him for having been given the role as an aide to the king (president),” Tjahjo was quoted as saying in a text message sent to Antara news agency.

Human rights advocate Rafendi Djamin told the Parrot that such a public statement from a minister was unseemly.

“It is unacceptable and politically unjustified because we live in a democratic country, so I think feudalism has no place,” said Rafendi, who is also the Indonesian representatives to the Asean Inter-governmental Commission in Human Rights.

Atnike Nova Sigiro, a human rights activist at the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), also said the comparison was misplaced.

“Ministers are assistants to the president in their professional capacity,” she said.

“They don’t need to thank the president for being appointed as ministers, otherwise they become ministers for their personal interests, while minister must be accountable to the public. It is the president who actually must thank them for assisting him,” she told the Parrot.

Jokowi has been treated like a king before.

After he was sworn in as president by the House of Representatives in October last year, Jokowi and Vice President Jusuf Kalla were paraded on a horse-drawn, royal-style carriage along Jakarta’s main thoroughfares on their way to the presidential palace.

Tjahjo, who is a political appointee from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said it was part of his job to help maintain political stability so that the cabinet could work effectively.

“I was just reminding that as the president’s aides, [ministers] must be loyal to the president, [execute] his decisions and implement his vision and mission,” Tjahjo said.

Politcal analyst from Indonesian Public Institute, Karyono Wibowo said Tjahjo’s choice of words to express his thoughts could have certain meaning that only Tjahjo himself would know.

“But whether it was intentional or slip of the tongue, it was unnecessary to use such a phrase because it doesn’t fall in line with our constitution,” Karyono said.

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