Sun, 13 Jun 2004

Crowd boos Mega miscue in Mataram

Trisna Wahyuni/Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Mataram/Jakarta

Who says Indonesian voters are not educated or mature enough to be able to distinguish what is right and what is wrong?

Thousands of people in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) booed presidential candidate Megawati Soekarnoputri Saturday when she erroneously mentioned that Lombok was part of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) province.

"Thank you very much. I'm very happy to come to Lombok in...(long pause)...East Nusa Tenggara," Megawati said with confidence at the beginning of her campaign speech, to which the audience responded by booing.

Apparently, Megawati did not hear the whispers of her aides around her who told her that Lombok was located in NTB. She did not correct herself.

Megawati, the incumbent President, was accompanied by and entourage that included daughter Puan Maharani and Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) executive Pramono Anung.

In her speech, Megawati mostly focused on farmers urging them to do careful market research.

From Mataram, Megawati and her group flew to Kupang, NTT for another campaign stop.

A similar blunder for the Megawati camp took place there, where campaign rally participants shouted in protest when the leader of the Prosperous Peace Party (PDS), Ruyandi Hutasoit, incorrectly stated that Megawati's running mate was Hamzah Haz.

"Let's all support the Mega-Hamzah pairing for our president and vice president," said Ruyandi, to which the audience shouted in protest, Antara reported.

Unlike Megawati, however, Ruyandi rectified his mistake by saying: "Let us support the Mega-Hasyim pairing as president and vice president."

Hamzah Haz is Megawati's current vice president and is running for president after being nominated by the party he leads, the United Development Party (PPP).

Aside from Megawati and Hamzah, other candidates in the July 5 direct presidential election are Wiranto of the Golkar Party, Amien Rais of the National Mandate Party (PAN) and frontrunner Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of the Democratic Party.

Amien and running mate Siswono Yudohusodo visited troubled Aceh amid tight security on Saturday for a number of campaign stops.

They were accompanied by Amien's campaign team members including campaign manager Bambang Sudibyo, PAN secretary-general Hatta Rajasa, PAN deputy leader A.M. Fatwa, Reform Star Party (PBR) leader Zainuddin MZ, Socialist Democratic Labor Party leader Mochtar Pakpahan and Freedom Bull National Party leader Eros Djarot.

Amien and Siswono visited a traditional Aceh market and had lunch with local pedicab drivers. At Bathoh Muhammadiyah University, Amien delivered a speech on cultural values.

Wiranto, meanwhile, held a series of campaign rallies in West Java. He was accompanied by his wife Rugaiya Usman and Golkar leader Akbar Tandjung.

Akbar, who lost to Wiranto at the party's presidential convention in April, commanded all party members to vote for the Wiranto and his running mate Solahuddin Wahid.

"I order all Golkar organizers in West Java to support Wiranto and Solahuddin Wahid," Akbar said in Bandung, West Java.

In Jakarta, Susilo visited a public market and a bus station in North Jakarta and asked several questions to people about their problems in life, in a relatively quiet setting without the huge crowds.

Susilo's running mate, wealthy businessman and former Golkar presidential candidate Jusuf Kalla, made a campaign stop in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, where he was greeted by approximately 1,500 people.