Wed, 31 Aug 1994

Ismail, Matori in war for PPP top spot

JAKARTA (JP): Matori Abdul Djalil and Ismail Hasan Metareum, emerging as the strongest contenders in the race for the top spot of the United Development Party (PPP), were locked in a war of words yesterday.

In their open and escalating rivalry, Matori and Ismail Hasan claimed to have the support from the majority of the party's congress participants from the provinces and regencies.

Ismail Hasan is the incumbent chairman seeking re-election.

Matori is the party's secretary general who is now attempting to unseat his boss whom he has accused of bringing the party to the brink of extinction.

When participants presented their views of Ismail Hasan's leadership of the past five years late Monday, Ismail Hasan got the upper hand with backing from 16 provincial chapters,while Matori was supported by only two. The remaining nine chapters abstained.

Although some participants criticized Ismail Hasan's leadership as "too soft" toward the bureaucracy and charged that he failed to optimally develop the party, most of the participants accepted his account of leadership.

Beaming with optimism over his chances to retain the top party post, Ismail Hasan told the congress yesterday that he would continue his much celebrated "cool" leadership style if he was re-elected.

"But I would see to it that I wouldn't be too cool and freeze as some have feared," he said.

Ismail Hasan, who is one of the House of Representatives' deputy speakers, has lost support from his own faction, Muslimin Indonesia (MI), which is headed by H.J. Naro, the man he toppled in the 1989 congress.

But he played down MI's maneuver, saying that it was the congress which had the right to vote.


Matori, meanwhile, has secured strong support from the ulemas grouped in Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), to which he is affiliated. He has also secured the backing of the Central Java and East Java branches.

Matori's camp claimed yesterday that he had received endorsement from 173 of PPP's 300 regency branches.

NU ulemas have not lost hope that Matori will eventually win the party's leadership race.

"There is no reason to be pessimistic about Matori's chance," said ulema Cholil Bisri.

Cholil, however, rejected calls for NU, Indonesia's largest Moslem organization, which claims 35 million members, to campaign to boycott PPP in the 1997 election, if the party's top spot still goes to an MI leader like Ismail Hasan.

Matori and Ismail Hasan surprised congress participants yesterday when they hugged each other in front of them, something which Ismail Hasan had flatly rejected when journalists asked them to embrace in friendship on Monday.

But Matori rejected speculations that the move was a sign that he conceded defeat in the rivalry.

"Of course I'm still optimistic," he said when reporters asked about his chances of clinching the election.

Beneath the tumultuous surface of the congress is an even more furious debate about the composition of the electoral board which will be formed tonight.

Yesterday, the congress' second day, was dull with all of the struggle taking place outside the forum.

Near the entrance to the Pondok Gede Haj Dormitory, about 100 youths and students demonstrated, demanding that the congress elect Sri Bintang Pamungkas -- party chief aspirant who has received no backing from participants.

There were no incidents during the peaceful demonstration held under the watchful eyes of scores of security officers both in uniform and plainclothes.

Adding to the color of the day was a clash between journalists, officials and security officers, after security guards hit the camera of a local television journalist as security was making way for Minister of Home Affairs Moch. Yogie S.M. (par/pan)