Mon, 10 Apr 2000

Akbar warns Abdurrahman of social unrest

CISARUA, West Java (JP): House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung warned President Abdurrahman Wahid on Saturday of creating social unrest as a result of his controversial statements and the continuing political and economic instability.

Speaking after opening a workshop for journalists covering House affairs, Akbar said controversy sparked by his statements could lead to a crisis of confidence in the government.

He said mass rallies by Muslim groups nationwide to protest Abdurrahman's wish to encourage communist teaching was an example of the public's resistance, and it needs addressing otherwise it could give more problems to the government.

"Gus Dur and his government may face a sort of impeachment from the people if social unrest continues to escalate," Akbar said, referring to Abdurrahman's popular nickname.

Akbar said the House could press the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to call for a Special Session to appraise the President's performance and the government's efforts to address political and economic plights.

Akbar said many sides had been disappointed with the President for making controversial statements that raised confusion among the public and with his government's failure to achieve any progress in handling the political and economic crisis.

Political observer Maswadi Rauf echoed Akbar's warning. He suggested that President Abdurrahman instead offer a dialog with the protesting groups.

"Gus Dur has been belittling Muslim groups, ignoring the possibility that they could resort to social unrest sparked by their anger. The President has to prevent such a movement from taking place," Maswadi of the University of Indonesia said.

He said a dialog would at least open a chance for the groups to vent their arguments.

In his personal opinion, Maswadi said he was not surprised by Abdurrahman's wish to have the obsolete MPR decree revoked.

"As a humanist and intellectual, Gus Dur had proposed the idea long before he was elected President. I believe he wasn't seeking certain benefits from his statement," he said.

Political bargain

But historian Ahmad Mansyur Suryanegara of the Padjadjaran University in Bandung suspected that President Abdurrahman was exploiting the communist issue to warn the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has delayed an aid disbursement of US$400 million to Indonesia.

Speaking at a discussion sponsored by the Bandung Journalists Discussion Forum at the Homann Hotel, Mansyur said the President was targeting the IMF and the United States, regardless of the fact that his statement could spark anger among Muslims.

"If the IMF does not move, Gus Dur will prove his statement," Mansyur said.

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) leader Said Aqiel Siradj shared Mansyur's opinion. Said said in Yogyakarta on Sunday that the President proposed that MPR lift ban on communism to put pressures on the U.S. and IMF.

As a historian who has written about the history of NU, the Muslim organization Abdurrahman once led, Mansyur acknowledged that he could not understand Abdurrahman.

But he warned that if Abdurrahman had proposed his view on communism just to test Muslims' strength, it would backfire on him.

"Those who silently hit out at him will now be able to topple him easily," Mansyur said.

MPR Speaker Amien Rais agreed, saying the stakes were too high for Abdurrahman with his perceived support for communist teachings to be revived in Indonesia.

While assuring that Abdurrahman will complete his five-year term, Amien said the MPR would reject any demand for the revocation of the ban against communist teachings.

Meanwhile, House Deputy Speaker Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno said the government should, instead of revoking the decree, reinstate the political rights of those who were punished for their direct and indirect links to the banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

"For the sake of national reconciliation, release those who are jailed on Buru and Nusa Kambangan islands and rehabilitate former officials and civil servants who were dismissed for their links with the communist party," he said.

He said it was unfair and inhumane to punish innocent people only because their relatives were members of the party or involved in the PKI-supported insurgencies in 1955 and 1965. (edt/rms/sur/25/44)