Out of the nine new ministers that President Joko Widodo appointed during his last cabinet reshuffle in July, one of the few that was met without much comment or controversy was Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) Minister Arcandra Tahar. That was, until it was discovered that Arcandra, who had lived in the United States for 20 years, had become a naturalized citizen of the country in 2012 and held an American passport.
The controversy quickly blew up and although the government at first tried to argue that Arcandra had given up his American citizenship to serve in Indonesia, commentators were quick to point out that legally, Arcandra had lost his Indonesian citizenship as soon as he had completed the naturalization process in the US since Indonesia does not allow for dual citizenship.
Consequently, President Jokowi was forced to ask Arcandra to step down as minister after he had served for a mere 19 days, leading to much criticism of Jokowi’s administration and their failure to vet Arcandra and confirm his citizenship status.
Despite having lost his ministerial position, the president did not further punish Arcandra for not being more forthcoming about his citizenship. In fact, the government fast-tracked the renewal of his Indonesian citizenship, arguing that were legally bound to help him since he was technically stateless after renouncing his American citizenship. Officials announced recently that Arcandra’s Indonesian citizenship was legally reinstated on September 1.
When Arcandra stepped down as ESDM minister, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Panjaitan was assigned to temporarily fill the position. The government has yet to announce who they are considering for the job, but Luhut recently made comments indicating that the position would be filled very soon, leading some to speculate that the recently re-Indonesianized Arcandra may get his old job back. When Luhut was asked about the possibility, he merely replied that they’d have to “Ask the president”.
That speculation that Arcandra would be reinstalled as ESDM minister was strongly bolstered today by Vice President Jusuf Kalla. When asked about Arcandra’s possible return, he replied, “There’s definitely (a possibility he will be made minister again). But that’s the president’s call,” as quoted by CNN Indonesia.
If Arcandra were to become ESDM minister once again, it would certainly be a controversial move by the administration. However, one could also see it as Jokowi asserting his authority by showing that trivial matters of citizenship won’t prevent him from making sure his chosen man stays in office.