Tue, 31 Oct 2000

Gus Dur still best choice, say political observers

JAKARTA (JP): Foreign and local political observers opined that President Abdurrahman Wahid was still the best choice for the country and thus deserved space and a chance to complete his term.

Speaking in separate occasions on Monday, Daniel S. Lev of University of Washington, Daniel Sparringa of Surabaya-based Airlangga University, Arbi Sanit of University of Indonesia, J. Kristiadi of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Ichlasul Amal of Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University suggested that political elites stopped attacking each other as people are already tired of the relentless bickering.

"President Abdurrahman is still the most available person to lead this country," Lev told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on military held by the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI).

He warned any attempt to change the national leadership would be at a huge social, economic and political cost.

Lev said if people in the country were prone to dethroning their leader for minor things or accusations, solutions to the myriad of problems facing the nation would never be found.

"I think Gus Dur must be given a chance to optimize the performance of his administration," he remarked.

He further warned that if civilian politicians were busy waging political conflicts, the democratization process now underway was feared to stall and this would allow the military to regain ground.

Lev advised the civilian politicians to regroup instead, as the country was still negotiating various problems, including possible U.S. intervention.

"If possible, Gus Dur, Amien and the other political elites should communicate their ideas everyday to avoid unnecessary dispute," Lev said referring to the President by his nickname and the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Amien Rais.

Noted sociologist and political observer Daniel Sparringa shared Lev's view, saying sharp criticisms toward Gus Dur and his administration had constantly put the government on the hot seat.

"I think Megawati eventually broke her silence in response to the persistent efforts to topple Gus Dur. She is likely to fight it out to defend Gus Dur," Daniel, who also attended the seminar, remarked.

It would be proper for the current government to focus on concrete issues such as the handling of manpower instead of constantly being involved in political maneuvering, he suggested.

He insisted the idea to push for an Assembly special session to unseat Gus Dur would not receive popular support as the wish House of Representatives (DPR)'s legislators and that of their constituents were different.

"Even if some factions in DPR push for the special session, people won't be willing to support it because it's just too risky and tiring," Daniel said.

Separately, Arbi Sanit urged Gus Dur, Megawati, Amien and House Speaker Akbar Tandjung to meet once again to formulate the goals of the reform movement they claimed to bear.

"For the sake of the nation, they should meet. They should show their statesmanship, instead of acting as mere politicians," Arbi said in a seminar on Monday to mark the launching of the Open Society Institute (OPSI), a study center established by youths from the country's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).

He said demanding the resignation of Gus Dur as repeatedly stated by Amien, would not settle the country's complexities.

He asserted that the four key figures only represented their own groups.

Kristiadi renewed his call for the leaders to agree on a "cooling down period" in order to ease the current political tension and avoid possible clashes at grass roots level.

"They should meet with a clear agenda and come to a consensus of not attacking each other to avoid possible violence that can hamper the country's economic activities," he remarked.

Kristiadi had proposed the "cooling down period" prior to the annual session of MPR in August.

Amal, the rector of Gadjah Mada University, said the demand for Gus Dur's resignation came from those who are disappointed with his personal style, not the government's performance in the economic field.

"So Gus Dur should not answer the criticisms or issue controversial replies," he remarked.

He said Abdurrahman's resignation would only add problems if Amien also did not follow suit (resign), on grounds that the two are linked to the country's largest Muslim organizations.

"The resignation of Abdurrahman and Amien, if it is deemed the best solution, will avoid clashes between their supporters," he said.

Abdurrahman formerly chaired NU, while Amien led Muhammadiyah. (23/edt/jun)