Thu, 05 Oct 2000

Banser's protest over caricature regretted

JAKARTA (JP): The National Awakening Party (PKB) secretary- general Muhaimin Iskandar regretted its militias Garda Bangsa and Banser of the largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama for protesting a caricature in a newspaper.

"We apologize for the conduct. We had already forbade them from conducting a rally over it when they asked for approval," Muhaimin told reporters on Wednesday.

Several members of the militia groups reportedly "visited" the head office of Pikiran Rakyat morning daily on Jl. Soekarno- Hatta, Bandung on Tuesday.

They protested a caricature in the newspaper's Monday edition which they deemed defaming to the party. The caricature featured a mouse (PKB) and a pig (the China Communist Party) together in a pen saying: "Now, we are friends."

The cartoon seemed to refer to a recent visit by a delegation from the China Communist party to Jakarta. The delegation met with President Abdurrahman Wahid and several members of political parties, including PKB.

Muhaimin who is also the House of Representatives deputy speaker urged the militias to end the dispute since the newspaper had already apologized.

"I think its enough. We don't need to be angry that the newspaper had insulted us as the caricature is baseless," he remarked.

But PKB's deputy chairman Yusuf Muhammad viewed the reaction of Banser and Garda Bangsa as normal due to the negative portrayal intended by publishing the caricature.

"The newspaper tried to create a negative image so I think, the reaction was normal," Yusuf said.

He rejected that Banser and Garda Bangsa members have "occupied" the newspaper office, saying that they had just come in a small number to protest the caricature.

PKB's West Java chapter contacted several mass media on Wednesday saying they would be holding a rally at Pikiran Rakyat's office.

But the chapter's official Dede Supriadi said in the evening that the rally would be held on Thursday.

Meanwhile, executives of the newspaper and PKB's officials are still trying to settle the dispute. The newspaper had published an apology on its front page the last two days.

In May, the same groups "occupied" the office of Surabaya- based Jawa Pos morning daily to protest a report on corruption allegedly linked to President Abdurrahman Wahid who is the founder of PKB.(25/jun)