Thu, 23 Nov 2000

Islamic parties demand early election

JAKARTA (JP): A forum of several Muslim-based political parties demanded on Wednesday an early general election and nominated United Development Party (PPP) chairman Hamzah Haz for the presidency.

"We want the general election to be speeded up. We therefore nominate Hamzah Haz for president, since PPP is the largest party at the forum," the forum's deputy chairman, Imam Saksono, said at a media conference at the PPP headquarters in Central Jakarta.

Imam said the forum had observed that President Abdurrahman Wahid had yet to improve his performance.

The forum consists of nine political parties, including the PPP, the Crescent Star Party (PBB), the Justice Party (PK), the Nahdlatul Ummah Party (PNU), the People's Awakening Party (PKU) and the Muslim People Party (PUI).

The forum urged the House of Representatives (DPR) to send a memorandum calling for a Special Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to demand the President's accountability, he said.

He said if Abdurrahman resigned, he would constitutionally be replaced by incumbent Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

"But if the general election slated for 2004 could be speeded up, political parties would not elect Megawati," Imam said.

The political parties are known for objecting to the chairperson of the 1999 election winner, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), becoming president, because she is a woman.

Meanwhile, another forum of smaller Muslim parties led by political scientist Deliar Noer called on all opposing groups and supporters of President Abdurrahman to set up a dialog to avoid further conflict.

"It's regrettable that some legislators are also involved in the political bickering," Deliar, who is also a chairman of PUI, said.

He suggested that the President's supporters from the country's largest Muslim organization, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), and its youth wing Ansor and security task force Banser, avoid conflict with supporters of the Indonesian Muslim Students Association (HMI), the Islamic Youth Movement (GPI) and the Hizbullah, who demand the resignation of Abdurrahman.

Meanwhile, calls for Abdurrahman's resignation continued on Wednesday with hundreds of people and students staging demonstrations nationwide.

In Jakarta, some 100 students, grouped under the Collective Action Network, staged a protest in front of the State Palace, demanding that President Abdurrahman Wahid get on the right track of reform.

The student protesters from various private universities in the capital lashed out at the President, who was considered to be violating the reform spirit.

"The President is unable to enforce the law," the coordinator of the protesters, Solihin, said. He was referring to the government's failure to execute the Supreme Court's verdict on Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, who is still at large, and to prosecute three business tycoons suspected of committing corruption worth billions of dollars.

In Makassar, South Sulawesi, about 500 people grouped under the Poros Merah Putih Indonesia (Indonesian Red-and-White Axis) staged an anti-Gus Dur protest at the South Sulawesi provincial legislative council.

The protesters asked the councillors to push the House and the Assembly in Jakarta to arrange for a Special Session to impeach the President.

"His administration has failed to improve people's quality of life, especially those living in remote areas. We want the councillors to be aware of the situation and urge the House and Assembly to arrange a Special Session," Adnan Tiro, a spokesman for the protesters, told The Jakarta Post.

Hasbi, a protester, said it was time the President stepped down.

In Surakarta, Central Java, some 150 members of the Indonesian Muslim Students Front (KAMMI) took to the streets on Wednesday, demanding that the President resign. They gathered at Sebelas Maret University yard, staging orations criticizing the government.

They said the President had failed to settle big problems, citing the prolonged economic crisis, high unemployment rate and bloody unrest in Aceh, Maluku and Irian Jaya. (27/asa/har/jun/sur)