Sat, 09 Oct 1999

Capital awaits arrival of PDI-P supporters

JAKARTA (JP): Thousands of supporters of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) from East Java and Central Java are set to flock to the city to support their chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri's presidential bid.

A party official from East Java, Sutoyo, said in Surabaya on Friday that about 5,000 supporters of the party would leave for Jakarta on Oct. 18.

He said the supporters did not intend to disrupt the General Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), whose 700 members will elect a president on Oct. 20.

A mass build-up of the party's supporters is underway due to fears Megawati will lose the presidential election. They insist that Megawati deserves to lead the country after the party's win in the June elections.

Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Wiranto has repeatedly warned against mass deployment of party supporters during the General Session.

PDI Perjuangan's Central Java leader Mardijo confirmed in Semarang on Friday that thousands of the party's supporters would soon depart for Jakarta.

He denied involvement of the party's Central Java chapter in the plan.

"It's purely their own idea. Therefore, it's not true that we are financing their trip," said Mardijo, who also heads the provincial legislative body.

He said he could understand the supporters' disappointment if the MPR did not elect Megawati as the country's fourth president.

"They have channeled their political aspirations through PDI Perjuangan, and won't be satisfied unless Megawati is elected the president," he said.

Some 300 students of several state and private universities marched across Surabaya on Friday to demand that the MPR reject antireform presidential candidates.

They also rejected the naming of presidential and vice presidential candidates from the military, contending it would allow the status quo forces to maintain their presence and for military interference in the government.

The protesters stopped at the provincial legislature, gubernatorial office and provincial military command to read out their demands.

Meanwhile, chief of the Diponegoro Military Command overseeing Central Java, Maj. Gen. Bibit Waluyo, said in Purwokerto, Central Java, that his troops were ready to counter violent rallies held by students or PDI Perjuangan supporters.

"We won't hesitate to apply stern measures against anyone who causes anarchy or trouble during the MPR General Session."

He urged party supporters not to hold mass gatherings to air their aspirations, saying it would only create opportunities for unrest.

"Whoever is elected president will be the best choice of our representatives in the MPR. The military will fully support whoever is elected."

He hoped the public would exercise restraint until the Assembly closed its session.

In Jakarta, youth groups under the country's two largest Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, pledged on Friday to safeguard the presidential election.

One of the groups' leaders, Nadjamuddin Ramly, said they would help the Assembly proceed smoothly and not let disturbances occur.

"We're strong, we have hundreds of loyal supporters. We are all united against those who plan to create chaos in the country," Nadjamuddin said. (har/nur/emf/45/02)