The last few years have been a busy year for Indonesia’s foreign policy agenda. This is due to the fact that on several occasions, Indonesia was trusted to chair numerous international organizations, forums and agendas, including but not limited to the G20 in 2022, ASEAN and MIKTA in 2023. In addition, earlier this year Indonesia was also trusted to be partner country at Hannover-Messe in Germany for the third time and G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan. With Indonesia’s packed foreign agenda, it is not an exaggeration to say that Minister of Foreign Affairs, Retno L. P. Marsudi’s workload in carrying out her diplomatic duties is quite challenging.
As explained previously regarding Indonesia’s packed agenda in chairing and organizing several international organizations, forums and agendas, asides of that, Minister Retno is conducting various schedules, which includes bilateral visits to various countries whether with the President or not, accompanying the President in the handing over of credentials from foreign countries, accompanying the President in the inauguration of Ambassadors, inaugurating Consul Generals by herself, working meetings with Commission I of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia, reviewing the readiness of the ASEAN Summit facilities and organizing the ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo and Jakarta, conducting discussions or welcoming state officials and answering to requests for interviews with media colleagues to raising awareness on Indonesia’s short, medium and long term foreign policy strategy and so on.
Therefore, if we looking at the provisions of prevailing laws and regulations, article 10 of Law Number 39 of 2008 on the Ministries of State stipulates that in the event of a particular amount of work requires special handling, the President may appoint a Deputy Minister. Moreover, in the internal regulations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself, the legal basis for the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs is stipulates in the Minister of Foreign Affairs Regulation Number 6 of 2021 on the Organization and Work Procedure of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the Deputy Minister is responsible for assisting the Minister in leading the implementation of the duties of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Pursuant to the regulations mentioned above as justification and legal basis and also in addition to the current workload of the Minister Retno, it is deemed necessary for Indonesia to have a Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs to support Minister Retno obtain and achieve national interests.
On the other hand, the position of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs has been vacant for more than a year after Mahendra Siregar appointed as Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of the Financial Services Authority in April 2022. After long awaited, on 17 July 2023, President Joko Widodo officially inaugurated Pahala Mansury as the new Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs at the State Palace along with other Ministers and Deputy Ministers. The President’s policy then raises issues following the appointment of Pahala Mansury for international relations aspect, namely: is Pahala Mansury the right figure to fill the post left by Mahendra Siregar as the next Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs?
Since gaining its independence back in 1945, Indonesia has had 7 Deputy Foreign Ministers before the position being filled by Pahala Mansury, among others: Agus Salim (Sjahrir I and II Cabinet 1946-1947), Tamzil (Amir Sjarifuddin I and II Cabinet 1947-1948), Triyono Wibowo (United Indonesia Cabinet I and II 2008-2011), Wardana (United Indonesia Cabinet II 2011-2014), Dino Patti Djalal (United Indonesia Cabinet II 2014), A. M. Fachir (Working Cabinet 2014-2019) and Mahendra Siregar (Onward Indonesia Cabinet 2019-2022).
If we observe the pattern, the position of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs has always been filled by an internal figure or career diplomat from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs except at the beginning of independence since the Department or Ministry was newly established. Pahala Mansury himself is the first Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in Indonesia history who is not a career diplomat, where he previously had a career mostly as a director in various state-owned companies. Prior to the appointed of him as the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, he was entrusted by President Joko Widodo to accompany Erick Thohir as Deputy Minister I of Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises.
With a non-diplomat background, we should be questioning the motivation behind Pahala Mansury’s appointment as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs because it is certainly not an easy task for him to immediately adapt, learn and understand the main tasks of diplomacy, which are representing, negotiating, protecting, reporting, and managing in accordance with competency standards in the form of technical, managerial and socio-cultural competencies to carry out the functions and duties of the position with efficient and effective manner. In order to get optimal results, these competencies could be obtained through the functional training of diplomats in the Foreign Service School, the Foreign Service Staff School and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Staff and Leadership School. Furthermore, Pahala Mansury is also required to be familiar with the organizational structure and work procedures of the ministry as well as 132 Indonesian representatives overseas consisting of 95 diplomatic representatives, 3 permanent missions and 34 consular representatives also various international organizations that Indonesia joined as a member and observer.
With the various challenges that occur, the position of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs is supposed to be filled by an internal figure or career diplomat to ensure that the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs does not need to previously learn the basics of diplomacy, the organizational structure of the ministry and representatives so that he can directly assist the Minister in leading the implementation of the duties of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Especially, Indonesia is also preparing for an ambitious target by gathering endorsements from other countries for Indonesia’s candidacy for the Human Rights Council in 2024-2026 & the United Nations Security Council in 2029-2030. One final point that is both interesting and important to note is that the Elucidation of Article 10 of Law Number 39 of 2008 on the Ministries of State also stipulates that what is meant by “Deputy Minister” is a career official, something that Pahala Mansury has no experience with. Hence, the appointment of Pahala Mansury as Deputy Minister was not in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations.