Mon, 08 Nov 1999

Calls mount for NU to break from PKB

JAKARTA (JP): A fresh demand was aired on Saturday for Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) to cut its traditional affiliation with the National Awakening Party (PKB) when the country's largest Muslim organization holds its congress later this month.

PKB executive Yahya Cholil, who represents the party at the General Elections Commission, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday that NU's complete break with political practices would help it focus on its original role as a moral force.

"NU should let go of PKB, the party it established, if it wishes to work optimally. Keeping a distance from politics will benefit a mass organization like NU a lot more than the converse option," Cholil said.

PKB was founded by Abdurrahman Wahid, who chairs NU, following the fall of the New Order regime last year. Abdurrahman, also known as Gus Dur, introduced PKB as the only party for NU followers to channel their political aspirations.

NU renewed its pledge to stay away from politics when Abdurrahman took the helm of the organization in 1984. When it was born in 1926, NU declared itself a politics-free organization.

The call for strict adherence to NU's statute is mounting largely because of Abdurrahman's election as President and the fact that the Muslim organization played a major role in political processes during the reform era.

But the chairman of PKB's Central Java chapter, Noer Iskandar Al-Barsany, said on Thursday that during its upcoming congress NU could modify its interpretation of its statute to give PKB "a constitutional basis" within the 35 million-strong Muslim organization.

Executives of NU's provincial chapters and regency level branches will convene in East Java's cigarette-producing town of Kediri from Nov. 21 to Nov. 27 to elect a new chairman in place of Abdurrahman and a chief for the Syuriah law-making body.

The secretary of NU's Central Java chapter, Muzamil, claimed on Saturday that President Abdurrahman approved the chapter's nomination of Sahal Mahfud for the Syuriah top post.

Sahal is one of Abdurrahman's uncles.

For the organization's top executive job, Central Java remains divided, Muzamil said.

Mustofa Bisri, Hasyim Muzadi, Said Aqiel Siradj and Fadrul Falaakh have been touted as the strongest contenders to replace Abdurrahman. (har)