Mon, 22 May 2000

Critics warn Gus Dur of possible impeachment

JAKARTA (JP): The polemic over President Abdurrahman Wahid's intention to have the three-decade-old communism ban lifted has been dragging on, with contenders warning of massive opposition that could lead to his ousting.

Executive director of the Center for Information and Development Studies (CIDES) Jumhur Hidayat said here on Saturday that Abdurrahman's intention to pursue the revocation of the ban would raise people's anxiety.

"If Gus Dur (the President) insists on his proposal, then he could face impeachment. In my opinion, the House of Representatives and the People's Consultative Assembly will resist it," he told journalists on the sidelines of a talk show on the controversy.

He said allowing communist teachings to spread was a violation of the first moral principle of the state ideology Pancasila, which recognizes God.

"Fascism and communism owe their origins to the denial of God's existence," Jumhur added.

The ban was imposed by the Assembly in 1966 when it was a provisional body, following the aborted coup blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Political scientist Indria Samego, who chairs CIDES board of directors, said he personally welcomed Abdurrahman's idea but he doubted that it could comply with reality in society, where communism had left agony and enmity.

"The revocation proposal is like two points of a knife for Gus Dur. It could boost his popularity, but could also ruin his administration," he remarked.

Abdul Qadir Djaelani, a House legislator representing the Crescent Star Party (PBB), also chided the President's proposal, saying that if the government let communism live in the country it would lead to anarchy.

"If such teachings are allowed to spread, the party will withdraw from the Cabinet and we will strongly oppose Gus Dur's administration," Djaelani said.

Noted cultural observer Taufik Ismail joined the chorus of opposition, saying there was no agreement between Abdurrahman's argument to lift the ban and the facts in countries that uphold communism.

"None of the 24 communist countries across the world uphold democracy and human rights. They fail to promote democratization and recognize human rights," Taufik remarked.

He pointed out that the countries practiced authoritarianism in allowing their leaders to rule for long periods of time.

Citing the outcome of four research studies on communist countries, Taufik said 100 million people had been killed in those societies.

"The societies do not recognize human rights at all," he said.

Sumarno Dipodisastro, a former activist of a student movement that helped the New Order take over the power in 1966, criticized people who rushed to their own conclusions without fully understanding the content of the Assembly decree on the communist ban.

"The decree bans the existence of PKI and the spread of communist teachings. But, actually, it allows communism to be taught as an academic discourse at universities," he said.

Support came from Imam Ahmad, the director of the Institution for Economic and Social Research, Education and Information (LP3ES), who said that the fear of the return of PKI or other parties to replace the state ideology was exaggerated.

He insisted that communist teachings had failed to create wealthy and just communities.

"History shows that communism has failed to win people's hearts. I don't think communist parties will sell, without having to impose the ban," he said.

House legislator Taufikurrahman Saleh of the National Awakening Party (PKB), which was founded by Abdurrahman, was more cautious in response to the proposal, saying his party was still studying the matter.

"If we fully comprehend the meaning of democracy, any teaching has the right to exist. But the ban, which reflects people's aspirations, is also part of democracy," he said.

Another House legislator, Pramono Anung of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), played down people's anxiety resulting from the President's proposal.

"He is not serious, because if he is, the Assembly's working committee should have discussed the issue. Anyway, he has succeeded in opening people's minds about the matter," he said in a separate seminar. (01)