Immigration authorities checking reports energy minister is a US citizen

Indonesian immigration authorities are investigating allegations that newly appointed Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Arcandra Tahar is a US citizen. 

Last month, President Joko Widodo appointed Arcandra, a petroleum engineer who spent 20 years working in the United States, to the ministerial post as part of a cabinet reshuffle.

Local media reported over the weekend, citing unnamed sources, that Arcandra took US citizenship in 2012 after a naturalization process and had used his US passport to enter Indonesia on several occasions in the past.

Indonesia does not recognize dual nationality, meaning locals who take an oath of allegiance to a foreign country automatically lose their Indonesian citizenship.

“We’re looking into his immigration record,” said Heru Santoso, a spokesman for the immigration department.

State Secretary Pratikno and Arcandra himself insisted that he is an Indonesian national, saying he had a valid Indonesian passport.

“My face and my accent are very much Indonesian,” he told local media, jokingly. However he declined to directly answer a question on whether he had US citizenship.

The controversy has been seized on by Joko’s critics to raise questions about his leadership.

“Didn’t they conduct a background check on prospective ministers?” asked Emil Salim, who held several ministerial posts in previous administrations.

“It’s shocking that a minister is a foreign citizen who is loyal to a foreign country,” Emil said.

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