Mon, 17 Apr 2000

Experts defend President's call to revoke communism ban

YOGYAKARTA (JP): Political observers have defended President Abdurrahman Wahid's support for lifting the ban on communism, saying that it does not violate the 1945 Constitution or People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) decrees.

Political observers Cornelis Lay of Gadjah Mada University and Arbi Sanit of the University of Indonesia rebuked calls by several minor Islamic parties, grouped under the 'axis force,' which demanded an impeachment of the President.

"Disappointment is no reason to force a president to resign. And I don't think Abdurrahman has violated his presidential authority during his nine months in charge," Cornelis told The Jakarta Post.

He said there was no doubt that there was severe disappointment among politicians in the axis force, primarily caused by Abdurrahman's support on a revocation of MPR Decree No. 25/1966, which banned communism.

However, he warned that the issue could be manipulated by the disappointed political factions to undermine the President.

The axis force is a caucus of several Muslim parties and the National Mandate Party (PAN), which pushed Abdurrahman's candidacy in the presidential election in October.

Cornelis said the axis force's political move was further evidence that they only half-heartedly supported Abdurrahman's presidential election in the first place, due to acrimony of Megawati Soekarnoputri.

"This is evidence that the axis force's support for Abdurrahman was only based on its hatred for Megawati," he said, referring to the Vice President who is also chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan).

Cornelis pointed out that disappointment over Abdurrahman in the ranks of the axis force had been boiling for some time as many decisions taken by the government were perceived to be against the loose political coalition.

He pointed to the departure of leading axis force figure and United Development Party (PPP) chairman Hamzah Haz from the Cabinet as one major turning point.

He claimed that the appointment of Marsilam Simanjuntak and Bondan Winarno to the strategic posts of Cabinet secretary and acting state secretary respectively was another blow.

The Crescent Star Party (PBB), a member of the axis force, urged the Assembly on Friday to hold an emergency session to demand the accountability and possible impeachment of Abdurrahman due to his suggestion to lift the ban on communism.

Separately, political scientist Arbi Sanit also said there was no reasonable basis to force the President to resign.

"Abdurrahman has not violated the Constitution nor MPR decrees," he told reporters after a seminar at Yogyakarta Muhammadiyah University on Saturday.

He cited evidence of this as that Abdurrahman had wide-ranging support in the country.

"There is no political leader who has wider support than Abdurrahman. Not even Megawati. Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) followers would not let Abdurrahman be toppled," he added.

Meanwhile in Padang, West Sumatra, PBB chairman Yusril Ihza Mahendra said his party would excise its support for the President, who insists on revoking the ban on communism.

"The communism issue cannot be bargained. We can't compromise on that," Yusril, who is also the law and legislation minister in the Cabinet, said on Sunday.

However, Yusril was skeptical given the huge public protests over the ban being lifted.

"I suspect that this will end up only as a mere suggestion, like Abdurrahman's other ideas, which were then rejected by the public. It (the idea) will be repealed," Yusril said. (44/jun)