With less than a week to go before he leaves office, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono inaugurated on Wednesday 22 new ambassadors, including several for countries with which Indonesia has strategic interests.
The 22 new ambassadors, the majority of whom are career diplomats, include a politician from Yudhoyono's own Democratic Party, Toto Riyanto, who will be the ambassador to Brazil. Toto is also a former Indonesian Military (TNI) officer.
Also in the lineup is former Golkar Party lawmaker Aulia Aman Rahman, who will be ambassador to the Czech Republic; retired general Hotmangaradja Pandjaitan who becomes ambassador to France, and businessman-cum-jazz impresario Peter F. Gontha, who becomes the ambassador to Poland.
Toto said he had no idea why Yudhoyono chose him for the position.
"I didn't know anything about it," he said after the inauguration ceremony at the State Palace on Wednesday afternoon.
Selecting candidates for an ambassadorial position is a prerogative of the President, but the candidates have to go through confirmation hearings at the House of Representatives.
When asked how he would handle his new job, Toto said: "All sectors must fight for [the interests of] Indonesia. I will do my best. We must build bilateral ties between Indonesia and Brazil."
Harry Purwanto, a career diplomat who is the new ambassador to Nigeria, said he was not personally worried about the Ebola outbreak despite being based in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. The WHO announced on Tuesday that it could soon declare the Ebola crisis over in Nigeria and Senegal.
"In fact, I am looking forward to it," said Harry, who recently served as a deputy for international cooperation at the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT). "One of my priorities will be to protect Indonesians there [from Ebola]."
A former member of House Commission I on defence and foreign affairs and Hanura Party politician, Susaningtyas Nefo Handayani Kertopati, who oversaw the 22 new envoys' confirmation hearings at the House in June, said most of the candidates were well-suited to their new roles.
"For example, the new ambassador to France, Pak Hotma [Hotmangaradja], I know him personally. He has a good understanding about diplomacy, the military and culture. Another example is Peter Gontha; I hope that as he's known to be a successful businessman, he will promote Indonesia aggressively," Susaningtyas said.
Susaningtyas had previously said, however, that it would be best if such posts were given to career diplomats.
Not all of Yudhoyono's choices was sworn in on Wednesday.
Ahmad Chozin Chumaidy, a United Development Party (PPP) executive, whose name appeared on Yudhoyono's list to become ambassador to Lebanon and who passed the confirmation hearing, was not inaugurated for unknown reasons.
Teuku Faizasyah, a former presidential spokesman who is now the new ambassador to Canada, maintained that all the candidates, including Chozin, had undergone a thorough assessment before being added to the list.
Last year, Yudhoyono's choices for 22 ambassadorships raised some eyebrows after Fauzi Bowo - who was known for his lackluster performance as Jakarta governor - was appointed Indonesia's ambassador to Germany. Many deemed his appointment a consolation prize after losing the Jakarta gubernatorial election in September 2012.
The Democratic Party, to which Fauzi belonged, backed the decision, arguing that he had extensive knowledge about Germany, having completed his undergraduate, master's and doctoral degree in the country at the Technical University of Brunswick and University of Kaiserslautern.
1. Teuku Faizasyah Canada
2. Wardana Turkey
3. Tatang BU Razak Kuwait
4. Harry Purwanto Nigeria
5. Endang Dwi Syarief Syamsuri Morocco
6. Stephanus Yuwono Zimbabwe
7. A. Agung Gde Alit Uzbekistan
8. Ronald Josef Pariaman Manik Papua New Guinea
9. Joko Harjanto Syria
10. Bambang Hendrasto North Korea
11. Philemon Arobaya Chile
12. Jonny Sinaga Argentina
13. Dominicus Supratikto Suriname
14. Yusra Khan Mexico
15. Imam Santoso Ethiopia
16. Wening Esthyprobo Fatandari Hungary
17. Harry Richard James Kandou Serbia
18. Mohamad Oemar Belgium
19. Aulia Aman Rahman Czech Republic
20. Hotmangaradja Pandjaitan France
21. Peter F. Gontha Poland
22. Toto Riyanto Brazil