Thu, 25 Aug 1994

Independence veterans' meeting ends in turmoil

JAKARTA (JP): The gathering of veterans of the independence struggle ended in turmoil on Tuesday night when several delegates denounced the line-up of the new executive board that includes children, grandchildren and even in-laws of veterans.

Twenty-two of the delegates to the Congress of the Association of Pioneers of Independence announced their intention to form their own group in protest, the Antara news agency reported yesterday.

The gathering was opened on Monday by President Soeharto who praised the veterans and suggested that the younger generation could emulate the fighting spirit shown by the pioneers during the struggle for Indonesia's independence dating back to the 1920s.

Indonesia proclaimed its independence on Aug. 17, 1945, immediately after the end of World War II to preempt the return of the Netherlands' colonial forces.

All did not go smoothly at the two-day congress attended by the few survivors of the independence movement, and some, despite their age, were as critical as they had been in their youth.

The association's strength has dwindled from an original 13,000 members to a mere 600 now. Their average age is 80.

Association chairman Yusuf Mawengkang, who was re-elected at this week's congress, in his attempt to maintain the existence of the organization, proposed the inclusion of members' offsprings in the board so they could take on the cause of maintaining the spirit of the independence fighters.

His proposal apparently did not go down well with some of the delegates, who said that the association would lose its "purity" by allowing the younger generation to join in.

The rebel members, in letters sent to several government officials, complained that Yusuf was authoritarian in running the congress and in pushing his concepts upon the participants. (emb)