Wed, 24 May 2000

Little support for lifting of communism ban

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid's intention to have a 34-year-old ban on communism revoked has failed to garner much support, with only the National Awakening Party (PKB) officially proposing that the issue be deliberated by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).

Spokesman for PKB faction in the MPR Syafrin Romas said on Tuesday that it supported Abdurrahman's proposal on the grounds that communism, as any other way of thinking, could not be prohibited. The PKB was cofounded by the President.

"The ban violates democracy and human rights. We just want the committee to discuss it," Syafrin said on sidelines of an MPR ad hoc committee meeting.

Communism was banned in 1966 through a decree issued by the Assembly, which at the time was a provisional body, following an abortive coup blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Syafrin said his faction supported the ban against PKI because it had twice attempted a coup, in 1948 and 1965.

Abdurrahman has repeatedly asked the Assembly to revoke the decree for the sake of human rights and democracy. His persistence has drawn criticism from various quarters and triggered demands for the MPR to hold a special session to impeach him.

The President said it was the prerogative of the MPR to accept his proposal or not.

Major factions at the MPR, such as the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), Golkar, the Reform faction and the United Development Party (PPP), expressed their opposition on Tuesday.

Golkar faction spokesman Rambe Kamaruzaman said his party would reject any plan to discuss the revocation bid.

"We will deliver our proposal, which will not recommend any forum to deliberate the revocation of the communism ban," said Rambe, who also chairs the MPR ad hoc committee dealing with, among other things, constitutional amendments.

He said other parties had also rejected the proposal.

"I predict all factions, except PKB, will reject the revocation of the decree. They even refuse to discuss it," Rambe said.

Many have speculated that Abdurrahman, also a well-known Muslim cleric, is trying to expand his political influence by soliciting the support of former PKI members with his proposal.

In the 1955 general election, PKI along with the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Party, the Indonesian Nationalist Party and Masyumi, gained the most votes. (jun)