Wed, 03 Aug 1994

Establishment of `New NU' draws severe criticism

JAKARTA (JP): The establishment of the Nahdlatul Ummah forum, dubbed by the press as the "New NU", by senior members of the United Development Party (PPP), has been torn to pieces by critics from within the party and the Nahdlatul Ulama, the original NU.

The choice of name was deplorable, the idea behind it is controversial and the timing, coming just ahead of a party congress, is wrong, according to critics of the New NU.

The new forum would simply add a new problem to the party now being torn by factional bickering, said Robbani Thoha, secretary of the PPP chapter in Central Java.

The forum, originally intended to bridge the divisions between the party's four factions, could instead become the fifth faction to further complicate the problem, Robbani was quoted by the Antara news agency as saying.

The choice of name caused particular consternation to NU, the largest of the four factions in PPP, which is embroiled in a battle for the party's leadership with the other factions.

"It is deplorable to see the attempt by some PPP politicians to create a new faction within the party using a name which is intended to resemble Nahdlatul Ulama, popularly known as NU," Chalid Mawardi, a member of the NU Executive Board, said in a statement quoted by Antara.

Chalid said the founders of the new forum are known for their anti-NU stance and their latest move was simply another deception to discredit his organization which is also busy in preparing for its own congress in November.

He said the founders should stop the plan to use the name Nahdlatul Ummah at once because the abbreviation NU is already recognized by the law as belonging to Nahdlatul Ulama.

The "New NU" was formally endorsed in Jakarta on Saturday by wringing endorsements from a number of senior PPP politicians who belong to neither of the four factions, including A.M. Saefuddin, Ali Hardi Kiaidemak, Hadimulyo and Saleh Khalid.

The founders said the group's chief objective is to court first time voters in the next general election in 1997, something which they said neither the party nor the four factions had ever handled seriously in previous elections.

Many current PPP leaders rose in ranks through their activities in the factions. Only a few of them started their political career in the PPP, the second largest political party in Indonesia, after the military-backed Golkar and just ahead of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI).

"Instead of creating a new faction, they should come up with programs on how to unite the party. That would be a better way," said Djuhad Mahja, another functionary of the PPP Central Java.

Ircham A.R. said he had no objection to the forum but suggested that it uses another "less offensive" name.

Another reason

Analysts said there was another reason why the non-faction PPP politicians have decided to set up the new forum -- the fear that they will be neglected when the congress parcel out the party's top positions traditionally based on quotas.

The party is a fusion of four Islamic parties in 1973: NU, Muslimin Indonesia (MI), Sarekat Islam (SI) and Perti.

The PPP is scheduled to open its congress on Aug. 28 in Jakarta with the top agenda being to elect the new chairman and appoint the new central executive board.

The establishment of the New NU has added a new twist to the controversy as the various factions are drawing up their strategy for the congress.

Ismail Hasan Metareum, the incumbent chairman who hails from MI, on Monday announced his intention to run for the election, counting heavily on the support of the leaders of the party's provincial boards.

His nearest challenger is his own secretary general, Matori Abdul Djalil who is supported by NU.

Meanwhile, a senior Armed Forces (ABRI) officer said the military will stay out from the PPP leadership contest, the Antara news agency reported.

"We will let PPP determine its own future, and whoever is elected as chairman will not be a problem for us, because that is the party's internal affair," Maj. Gen. Hari Sabarno, Assistant to the ABRI Chief on Socio-Political Affairs, was quoted by the Antara news agency as saying yesterday.

Earlier, ABRI chief spokesman Brig. Gen. Syarwan Hamid had said that ABRI views Ismail Hasan as a person who is capable of working with the military and the government.

His remarks raised speculation that the military is casting its support to Ismail Hasan's reelection. (emb)