INDONESIA: 'No more news' at VP office?

Presidential and vice presidential offices merge their press and household bureaus to improve coordination between the two administrations

The Jakarta Post
Saturday, August 29, 2009

By Erwida Maulia

Things are likely to change for journalists covering Indonesia's next vice president.

Jokingly, one reporter said they would be "liquidated", another said they would "hardly find any news", while a few others said they would have "no job to do" and perhaps would have to be transferred to other posts.

Reporters believe this will occur as soon as vice-president-elect Boediono assumes his position and after preparations for the move of his would-be office from the Vice Presidential Palace on Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan to the Presidential Palace on Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara is complete.

Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng said Boediono was expected to perform his daily duties as the vice president at the Presidential Palace complex shortly after his inauguration on Oct. 20.

"The Vice Presidential Palace will still be in use, but only for ceremonial events," Andi told The Jakarta Post on Thursday, adding the State Secretariat was currently preparing for the move.

Agus Suhana, a journalist who has covered both the President and Vice President for the last 22 years, said he expected the move would bring things back to the New Order era.

He said at that time, the administration for the president and vice president, including the press and household bureaus, had been basically under one roof.

"It [the administration] started to separate during Megawati Soekarnoputri's presidency. And the Vice Presidential Palace started to become a source of news when JK [incumbent Vice President Jusuf Kalla] took power in 2004," Agus said.

He explained that while all policies had been previously produced only at the Presidential Palace, when Kalla took office some policies were produced at the Vice Presidential Palace too.

"Sometimes Kalla held Cabinet meetings at the Vice Presidential Palace, such as on the construction of toll roads. Formerly there had been no such thing," Agus said.

"We used to get a lot of economic news from JK, now we have to prepare to get nothing. I think we'll be missing JK because his frank remarks have been good news for us journalists," he added, laughing.

Contrary to the "frankly-speaking" Kalla, former central bank governor Boediono has been noted for his unaffected silence.

Indeed, State Secretary Hatta Radjasa told journalists at the Presidential Palace the merger between the Presidential and Vice Presidential offices was intended to ensure that policies would be only produced through Cabinet meetings at the Presidential Palace.

"Therefore there will be no such thing as the Presidential office and Vice Presidential office producing *two* different decisions *on one matter*," Hatta told reporters.

Nevertheless, Kalla appears to support the move. He was quoted as saying by kompas.com on Friday that in 2004 he had requested the Vice President's office be in the same complex as the President's.

Andrinof Chaniago, a political observer from the University of Indonesia said he understood the move was meant to improve coordination between the President and the Vice President that was a bit troubled in the current government.

However, he added, that "physically moving" the Vice President's office to the Presidential Palace complex was an "exaggeration".