Thu, 25 Aug 1994

Buddhist council board seeks to consolidate position

JAKARTA (JP): The government-backed executive board of the Indonesian Buddhist Council (Walubi) yesterday sought to consolidate its position by calling for a meeting with representatives of religion's nine member denominations.

However, of the 80 people invited to the meeting at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, only 32 turned up, and most gave a cool response to the board's appeal for support and cooperation.

The council has been virtually split into two groups since its last congress in Jakarta in December 1992.

One is lead by Girirakkhito Maha Thera, who chairs the government-recognized executive board.

The other camp comprises Buddhist leaders who reject any form of government intervention in the affairs of the Buddhist community in Indonesia, including the drawing up of the council's new statutes.

Girirakkhito in his opening remarks to the meeting yesterday appealed to the participants to support his board.

He also justified the role the government in helping to settle the conflict within the council. "There is nothing wrong if we let the government settle our internal dispute," he said.

Siti Hartati Murdaya, a member of Girirakkhito's executive board, said the current conflict in Walubi was instigated by a number of individuals who are "jealous" of the current board.

She said the instigators include Lieus Sungkharisma, Kittinanda, Pramana Winardi and Tjoetjoe Ali Hartono.

Siti Hartati, who is a successful businesswoman, added that Lieus is now a fugitive in connection with a scandal at a cooperative in Jakarta.

Lieus was not available to respond to the accusation. A relative however told The Jakarta Post by phone that Lieus was traveling to Jambi, in eastern Sumatra.

Girirakkhito yesterday sought to steer the meeting toward completing the line up of the executive board.

He failed to secure the response he sought as most of the participants declined the offer to sit in his board. Some of them flatly rejected the offer while others said they simply could not handle the responsibility.

Budi Setyawan, Director of Buddhism at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, who chaired the meeting, showed his frustration when he suggested to the audience that they put up their names for the board first and if they could not handle the job, delegate it to others.

Meanwhile, Parwati Soepangat, one of the participants, criticized the board's decision last year to endorse the council's new statutes without the support of the entire Buddhist community. "Such a hasty move will only generate additional conflicts in Walubi," she said.

She also questioned the involvement of outsiders in the drafting of the statutes. (02/09)