Sun, 10 Oct 1999

Habibie works to prepare his accountability speech

JAKARTA (JP): On Saturday, President B.J. Habibie unexpectedly summoned Minister of Finance Bambang Subianto, Bank Indonesia Governor Sjahril Sabirin and top government bankers for a meeting to finalize his accountability speech, especially the part concerning the financial sector.

In the unscheduled meeting at the Merdeka Palace, the two top monetary officials were accompanied by the president of publicly listed Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) Widigdo Sukarman, the president of Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) Djoko Santoso Mulyono and other senior government bankers.

After the meeting they rushed to their cars to avoid speaking to journalists.

"The President simply wanted to get the latest data on the condition of the state-owned banks, especially their bad loan problems," said an official about the meeting.

Before holding a televised media conference at the Merdeka Palace on Friday night, the President warned his close aides that the slow progress of the government recapitalization program, including the Bank Bali scandal, could become the main obstacle in having his accountability speech accepted by the MPR General Meeting on Oct.14.

"The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) seems to be the faction most prepared to attack the bank restructuring program," said one of Habibie's advisors, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Habibie is scheduled to deliver his accountability speech to the assembly on Thursday.

His policy on East Timor, the Bank Bali scandal and the dragging corruption investigation of his predecessor Soeharto are seen by most political analysts as the biggest problems that could affect his chances of staying in power.

On Friday afternoon, Habibie held his second plenary cabinet meeting in a week to prepare the speech, where he received a lengthy report on East Timor from Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas.

Habibie disclosed on Friday that acting Attorney General Ismudjoko would present to him on Monday his final report on the corruption probe of Soeharto.

"The attorney general has finished his work (on Soeharto)," the President told reporters at a media conference on Friday evening.

The media meeting itself, initiated by Parni Hadi, general manager of the Antara news agency, was part of Habibie's campaign for the presidential election on Oct.20.

Habibie claimed it would not be very difficult to convince the 700 MPR members to elect him.

"It will be easier to convince 700 MPR members than 212 million Indonesian people," the President said.

Some of his cabinet members and top aides, including Minister of Justice/State Secretary Muladi, have quoted the president as expressing his confidence that the assembly would accept his accountability report.

Habibie is even ready to face a vote in the assembly on his accountability report, Muladi disclosed last week.

Two days before presenting his crucial speech, Habibie will again chair the last plenary cabinet meeting at the Secretariat Building on Tuesday. The meeting will not only be attended by his Cabinet members but also all first-echelon officials from all ministries.

"After the Cabinet meeting, the President's speech will be printed in both Indonesian and English," a palace official said. (prb)