Mon, 23 Sep 2002

Golkar cracks under strong public pressure

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Golkar's previously solid leadership is now cracking under relentless public pressure for Akbar Tandjung to quit his post as Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR), with more leaders also demanding that the convicted corrupter relinquish his Golkar chairmanship to save the party.

Agung Laksono revealed over the weekend that he too had urged Akbar, who was found guilty of corruption and sentenced to three years in jail, to resign from the Golkar chairmanship.

Earlier, Golkar leaders Aulia Rachman, Fahmi Idris, Marwah Daud Ibrahim, Marzuki Darusman and Theo L. Sambuaga had told Akbar to quit during a closed-door meeting on Wednesday night.

Agung said that the party leaders who asked Akbar to resign had no personal grudge against the House Speaker.

"We did so to save everybody (in the party) and so that all sides concerned are not prejudiced and dragged into the problem Akbar is facing," Agung was quoted by Antara as saying in Cirebon, West Java, on Saturday.

If Akbar were to resign, Golkar, Akbar himself and everybody else in the party would be saved, Agung said.

"If we all have to wait until a final and binding verdict is handed down in Akbar's case, while it is uncertain when that will happen, the party will suffer," he stressed.

Agung's call is considered as the second serious blow to Akbar's grip over Golkar since a similar call from Marwah Daud.

If Agung is generally believed to represent party leaders coming from a former Golkar mass organization, Kosgoro, Marwah Daud is believed to have spoken on behalf of the party's Eastern Indonesia Caucus, known by its Indonesian acronym of Iramasuka, which stands for Irian, Maluku, Sulawesi, and Kalimantan.

Senior Golkar leader Marzuki Darusman told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that more and more Golkar leaders were calling for Akbar's resignation, but he refused to give details.

"We don't want to specify the number (of those suggesting that Akbar resign). This is not a matter of voting," Marzuki said.

He also said that although a series of party meetings had agreed to maintain Akbar as party chairman, things could still change.

"We have a mandate to keep Akbar in his position, but we are aware that this can change at any time. The conviction of Akbar has had a bad impact on Golkar," Marzuki told the Post by phone.

Golkar co-chairman Rambe Kamarulzaman, however, said that the number of party leaders suggesting that Akbar resign was only three, namely Fahmi Idris, Marwah Daud and Theo Sambuaga.

The other three figures only leaked the results of the closed- door meeting to the public. "They are only acting as spokespersons," he said.

Akbar ally Ferry Mursyidan Baldan accused those who leaked what happened during the closed-door meeting to the public of trying to use the issue to unseat Akbar.

"They are jumping onto the morality bandwagon to get power," he said without naming anyone.

A series of meetings have been organized in response to the unexpected demands for Akbar to resign. The latest was a meeting of Golkar's board of advisers on Friday night.

The two-hour meeting concluded that Akbar should remain in the top party post, and that all members of Golkar should back him during the legal process.