Wed, 06 Aug 2003

Civil servants forced to buy PDI-Perjuangan's red T-shirts

Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, Cilacap, Central Java

Civil servants, including teachers here, say they have been forced to buy T-shirts bearing the picture of the local chairman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), Fran Lukman.

Lukman chairs the Cilacap branch of President Megawati Soekarnoputri's PDI Perjuangan in Central Java, and is also the regency's legislative council speaker.

The order to buy the T-shirts was reportedly approved by the Cilacap education and culture office.

The T-shirts which also carry the PDI Perjuangan's red symbol are sold for Rp 12,500 each.

"If we don't buy them we could be moved to other places or our promotions postponed. Our superiors who are PDI perjuangan members say subordinates must do whatever they say," Suyono, a 49-year old teacher, told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The PDI Perjuangan dominated the 1999 elections in Cilacap, one of its strongholds in the province.

Earlier last week, elementary and junior high school students in Cilacap complained that they had been "asked" to buy exercise books bearing the pictures of President Megawati, her father and founding president Sukarno, Regent Probo Yulastoro and Fran Lukman.

The request, also issued by the local education office, has angered parents and school principals, as well as other residents. Many believe the exercise books are connected with next year's general elections.

Each student in the regency has been strongly urged to buy a pack of four exercise books for 5,000 (58 US cent). The covers of the exercise books are red -- the color of the PDI Perjuangan.

Currently, there are some 290,000 elementary and junior high school students in the regency, while the number of civil servants including teachers is around 16,000.

Other teachers who declined to be named said the PDI Perjuangan's T-shirts are sold through education offices in subdistricts.

"If we refuse to buy one, we could be moved to a remote area. Who is not afraid of that threat? For our safety, I think we have to follow the order," a teacher said.

On Sunday, all village and subdistrict heads, as well as teachers and other civil servants in Jeruk subdistrict held a meeting with local PDI Perjuangan leaders to discuss the party's campaign to win the 2004 elections.

Those present at the meeting, including Cilacap Regent Probo, wore the party's red T-shirts. Probo is chairman of the PDI Perjuangan's so called Team of Success.

Spokesman for the Cilacap administration Slamet M.M. could not confirm reports that local civil servants, including teachers, had been asked to buy the T-shirts.

He denied that his office had enforced the policy, saying that civil servants should not affiliate themselves with certain political parties, which was the case during former president Soeharto's authoritarian rule.

Separately, the Golkar chairman of the Cilacap chapter, Indiatun Sukardi, lamented the attempt to use civil servants as political pawns.

"After the New Order collapsed, there was a commitment to the ideal that civil servants should be (politically) neutral," he added.

He said such a political maneuver must end as it was undemocratic.

"The regent should have thought about improving the welfare of civil servants instead of forcing them to support a certain political party," Sukardi said.