Gus Dur relieved by Akbar's words
JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid on Sunday expressed relief on hearing remarks from House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tanjung that the People's Consultative Assembly's Annual Session is merely aimed at reviewing the performance of his administration "in an effort to alert each other for the interests of the country".
"I'm relieved (to hear) Akbar Tanjung's remarks," Abdurrahman told a mass gathering of some 10,000 citizens from different religions and ethnic groups shortly after Akbar delivered his speech.
Akbar earlier told the crowds that the public had nothing to fear from the session, which will be held from Monday through to Friday of the following week.
"The MPR session will be safe and smooth as the annual meeting will be concentrating on important issues, such as the amendment of the 1945 Constitution," said Akbar, one of Abdurrahman's key critics.
"Even if there is an appraisal of Gus Dur's cabinet, it is meant only to warn each other," he stated.
Gus Dur said: "I agree that all people must be criticized as humans are not immune from making mistakes or overlooking things."
After surviving the interpellation motion from the House last month, Gus Dur is expected to take his toughest test yet during this annual convention, which may lead to a loss of confidence by the 700 legislators who elected him in October last year.
The fall of former authoritarian ruler Soeharto in May two years ago has left the current administration with numerous problems, such as wide ranging calls for independence and outbreaks of violence from the regions of Aceh, Irian Jaya and Maluku.
"I hope we can safeguard the integrity of our nation, of our country, and we can return to work to overcome the suffering and poverty which continue to haunt us," President Abdurrahman said.
Akbar said in his speech that "plurality is a phenomena of Indonesia, in the present and in the future."
The gathering on Sunday, titled Indonesia Berdoa (Indonesia Prays), was also attended by followers of at least 32 religious organizations from six official religions in the country.
The crowd, most of whom were attired in their respective religious costumes, missed the opportunity to see Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri and Assembly Speaker Amien Rais.
The two figures along with Gus Dur and Akbar met together on Tuesday in Yogyakarta at the invitation of Sultan Hamengkubuwono X who hosted the meeting.
Sunday's meeting at Istora Senayan indoor stadium was meant to gather people to pray for peace and develop religious harmony and stability in the country on the eve of the first Annual Session of the Assembly.
The rally followed similar mass public gatherings in recent weeks at different cities, particularly in Java, calling for an end to bloodshed across the country.
The event saw representatives of seven faiths appealing for religious tolerance and peace in the country.
First among the religious representatives to address the crowd was Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Muslim organization which was chaired by Gus Dur for 15 years until he was appointed head of state in October.
Hasyim said various conflicts in the country touted as religious conflicts were in reality "conflicts of interest, based on greed using religion to pit believers against one another."
Hindu representative Nyoman Widhi opened his speech with Islamic greetings in Arabic, followed by the greetings of the other major religions in their respective languages.
The speeches were followed by representatives from each of the seven faiths joining together to deliver brief sermons and a prayer.
The seven faiths included Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism and those grouped under non-denominational faiths, such as traditional Javanese beliefs.
The speakers also called on the Assembly members to put the nation's interest above personal or group interests.
Also in Central Jakarta, Central Executive Board of Indonesian Christian Participation (Parkindo) held a Sunday prayer for a peaceful and smooth Annual Session.
In Yogyakarta on Saturday, some 800 people from different religions also held a joint prayer, wishing for the safety of the nation ahead of the Annual Session. Some local religious leaders also attended the event.
The organizing committee's chairman Nuruddin Amin said that the event was arranged under the instructions of the NU central executive board to support the maintenance of President Abdurrahman's position until 2004.
"It is okay if people accuse the program of being politically motivated because there is a political interest in maintaining Gus Dur's status until 2004," Nuruddin told The Jakarta Post.
Meanwhile, around 1,000 people from different religions gathered in Semarang, Central Java to hold a similar event, which was supported by the local NU and Muhammadiyah branch.
"We also hope the Session will run smoothly.
"I think it will be horrible if certain parties try to topple Gus Dur through unconstitutional (means) and Gus Dur's followers may run amok over that matter," Muhammad Adnan, NU chairman in Central Java, said after the prayer.
Back in Jakarta, President Abdurrahman earlier spoke in front of a Muslim gathering at Al Riyadh Mosque in Kwitang, Central Jakarta.
On the occasion, Abdurrahman said that many people mistakenly held the belief that "politics is dirty".
"Actually such an understanding is not proper as the word 'dirty' is aimed at some of the perpetrators who run it (politics) and not the whole system," he said as quoted by Antara. (swa/har/edt/dja)