Fri, 30 Jun 2000

Gus Dur opens 12th Ansor congress

BOYOLALI, Central Java (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid opened the 12th congress of the Ansor Youth Movement (GP Ansor), the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), here on Thursday, calling on the youth to remain critical in their approach to national problems.

Present at the ceremony held at the Dorohudan Haj Dormitory, about 10 kilometers from Surakarta, were Minister of Home Affairs Surjadi Soedirdja, head of NU's law-making body Sahal Mahfudz and Minister of Tourism Djaelani Hidayat.

"I do hope that members of Ansor live their lives honestly and are aware of the reality and aspirations of the people," said Abdurrahman, who is also a patron and former chief of NU, the country's largest Muslim organization which boasts 30 million supporters.

The youth wing is known for its banser civilian guards, said to be one million strong.

In his opening speech, Abdurrahman said he remembered how Ansor strongly criticized him for the handling of the graft allegations concerning former president Soeharto.

"Once, I said that I would pardon Soeharto and B.J. Habibie if they were found guilty of graft. Then I was called gombal (empty talk) and plin plan (inconsistent)".

"(But) It's impossible to press a former ruler too hard and expect to get the money back. He (Soeharto) might as well run abroad and take the money with him...If we're strict all the time, everybody will be in jail," Abdurrahman added.

More than 1,900 provincial Ansor representatives from across the country are due to elect a new chief for the 2000 to 2005 term during the five day congress.

Among the strong contenders for the top post are incumbent Syaifulloh Yusuf who is Abdurrahman's nephew, former secretary- general of GP Ansor Saefulah Maksum and chairman of the Association of Indonesian Muslim Student Movement Khotibul Uman Wirono. (har/edt)