Fri, 12 May 2000

East Java councilors to be gagged in future

SURABAYA (JP): Rather than coaching and educating their councillors, major political parties in East Java are contemplating bridling councillors' freedom to speak to the media to curb embarrassing and contradictory news statements.

The move is being taken because, according to senior politicians in the province, many councillors simply do not know how to deal with the media.

Adrianus Harsono, from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), acknowledged on Thursday that his party, along with the National Awakening Party (PAN), Golkar and the Indonesian Military (TNI) factions, would in the future likely only allow faction leaders to make statements to the media.

If the plan is approved, only the speaker, deputy speakers and the chief of each faction in the East Java provincial council would speak directly to journalists.

Others would only be allowed to convey their aspirations through their party superiors.

"We are very distraught about negative reports about our activities. These news reports are the product of a conspiracy between journalists and certain irresponsible legislators," Adrianus claimed.

He added many of the statements being expressed were often "unproportional".

He further alleged that legislators from smaller factions in the provincial council, including the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Mandate Party (PAN), were maliciously accusing fellow members of corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN), through the media.

"This has nothing to do with returning to the New Order era. It is merely aimed at restoring the mechanisms of implementing democracy," Adrianus remarked.

Councillor Ahmad Ruba'i from PAN condemned the plan and said each legislator should have the freedom to speak out when protecting the peoples' aspirations.

He described the plan to restrict freedom of speech as a part of plan to resurrect New Order forces.

"Prostatus quo forces are now trying to make a comeback. People must strongly protest this plan," said Ahmad.

About 25 journalists have also protested the planned restrictions, threatening to boycott coverage of the councillors' activities.

But the protest was met with little response as council members and council speaker Bisri Abdul Jalil refused to comment. (nur/prb)