The Renomination of Marty Natalegawa: Indonesia’s Foreign Minister

By N Mark Castro

Menlu RI saat dikelilingi oleh WartawanThe current issue burning within the diplomatic ranks of Indonesia is the renomination of Minister of Foreign Affairs Marty Natalegawa.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has very distinct objectives:

  1. Restore Indonesia’s international image
  2. Help boost the economy and public welfare
  3. Help strengthen national unity, stability and integrity, and preserve the nation’s sovereignty
  4. Develop bilateral relations, particularly with countries that can support Indonesia’s trade and investment and economic recovery; as well as promote international cooperation that helps build and maintain world peace.

There right there is what makes Indonesia’s foreign affairs policy quite unique: world peace. Which perhaps explains its active role in engaging in peacekeeping missions. Not because out of the kindness of its heart, but enshrined in its objective and protected by its Constitution.

Imagine that.

Raden Mohammad Marty Muliana Natalegawa was preceded by the popular, well-loved, and much admired Hassan Wirajuda who has initiated various internal reforms that advanced the interests of the Ministry. Marty — considered as one of the new breed of young, talented, and highly (foreign) educated diplomats, replaced Hassan in the 2nd cabinet of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

But as soon as the Jakarta Globe released its story that search for the Minister of Foreign Affairs under president-elect Joko Widodo may already have its man under the incumbent Marty Natalegawa, an influx of criticisms came out, purportedly from within the ministry and colleagues. 


Chief among the criticisms that appeared under Jakarta Globe‘s new article are:

  1. Financial constraints to support their missions abroad.
  2. Failing to continue the internal reforms within the ministry introduced by his predecessor.
  3. Paying too much attention to Indonesia’s image abroad while neglecting the welfare of Indonesian diplomats and other Foreign Ministry employees supporting the country’s diplomatic missions.
  4. Should have adopted more progressive views to improve the ministry.
  5. Foreign policy has been reduced to political and media statements and to a network of private relationships with other foreign ministers, with little or no whole-of-government approach; where economic diplomacy is lip service; where headquarters and diplomatic and consular posts have been left languishing without adequate resources and support; where staff are demoralized and good people leaving.

Outspoken former Indonesian Ambassador to Switzerland Djoko Susilo has been vocal with his criticism against Marty. He has been courageously vocal in his criticisms against the government’s rigid budget system that he said has made the diplomatic mission less effective and inefficient.

“Almost all Indonesian embassies worldwide will remain dormant in January until June because the Finance Ministry will start disbursing the 2012 budget in March or April at the earliest. And they will be racing to spend their budget from October until December,” he said.

He also complained that he had to spend money to rent a building to store scrapped inventory because embassies were not allowed to dump them for audit purposes. “We have to spend 4,000 Swiss francs [almost Rp 42 million] annually to rent a room to store scrapped office equipment.”

He said he personally had no problem if he were recalled to Jakarta after a Democratic Party faction urged the President to withdraw him and to cut the embassy’s annual budget because of his opposition to the House’s foreign trips.

“Most foreign trips made by legislators are more about tourism than comparative studies and I have voiced my criticism based on my own experience sitting in the House for a decade,” he said. “The House could check the Internet or have consultations with foreign embassies in Jakarta to learn about foreign countries’ systems and experience,” he added.

His criticisms against Marty, however, could only be limited to financial constraints and the lack of continued reforms initiated by former Minister Hassan Wirajuda.


But as you can see from the valid criticisms, none of it mentioned in any way if Marty Natalegawa had been remiss in his duties. That he has succeeded in elevating the stature of Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry to global forums is a major achievement. That even critics have validated this to be so.

So isn’t the ministry as it is populated by deputies?

Dino Patti Djalal, former ambassador to the United States and is considered to be a plum post, is a former career diplomat who has risen from the ranks in the diplomatic corps before being tapped by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as a presidential spokesperson, Ambassador, and now, Deputy Minister at the Foreign Affairs.


Highly credentialed, savvy tactician that can navigate through Indonesia’s politics, and foreign-educated, together with Marty, there isn’t a bureaucratic problem they couldn’t cut through.

While it is indeed true that there should be a balance between internal process and external missions, the larger objective is the main focus.

What is Marty’s mission anyway?

To promote the foreign policies of Indonesia. To engage foreign media. To make a specific and strong stand aligned with the president’s — and the country’s — position in global forums.

According to the same story by The Jakarta Globe, Bantarto Bandoro, a foreign policy expert with the Indonesian Defense University, commended Marty’s “strongman” stance on Indonesia’s foreign policy, but noted that other senior diplomats, including Yuri Thamrin, the ministry’s director general for Asia Pacific and Africa, deserved consideration for the minister’s seat.

Teuku Rezasyah, the executive director of the Indonesian Center for Democracy, Diplomacy and Defense, on Monday said outsiders had observed reforms within the Foreign Ministry under Marty.

He cited as examples the online recruitment system for new ministry officials, which offers greater transparency, selective appointment of ambassadors overseen by the House of Representatives, and more openness in general.

“Over the past few years, ministry officials have been visiting [university] campuses more often, giving lectures [on foreign policy], and they are always open to discussion with academics,” said Rezasyah, himself an international relations lecturer at Bandung’s Padjajaran University and whose brother, Teuku Faizasyah, the presidential spokesman for foreign affairs, previously worked with Marty at the Foreign Ministry.

So did Marty succeed?

Yes. Mission accomplished.

Now that he’s been renominated, then there would be continuity with his programs aligned with the incoming president. That there are internal and bureaucratic issues that need to be resolved, Dino — and the rest of the deputies — are there to assist him.

You don’t put down a winning horse just because it has fleas.




About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on September 9, 2014, in General, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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