Fri, 18 May 2001

Major political parties defend Vice President

JAKARTA (JP): The country's two top political parties, Golkar and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), jumped to the defense on Thursday of Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri, who has come under attack by President Abdurrahman Wahid's camp.

Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung said Megawati's criticism of the President was proportional, and there was no need to ask her to resign from the vice presidency just because she had rebuked Abdurrahman.

"I do not think her comments have been out of line because, although she is part of the government, she has the right to reprove the President," said Akbar, who is also the speaker of the House of Representative.

Executives of Abdurrahman's National Awakening Party (PKB), including secretary-general Muhaimin Iskandar, suggested that Megawati go the way of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo if she could not work with the President. The PKB leaders said that only after leaving the administration could Megawati criticize the government.

Akbar said Megawati was elected vice president by the People's Consultative Assembly, therefore she was not accountable to the President.

"They should work together, but if sometimes they have differences of opinion it does not mean that she should resign," Akbar said.

Separately, the deputy secretary-general of PDI Perjuangan, Pramono Anung Wibowo, said that as vice president, Megawati, who is also PDI Perjuangan chairwoman, would remain loyal to the President.

"Ibu Megawati will stay loyal to the President as the Vice President. What she has done (as a party leader) is to empower her faction in the House in implementing the system of checks and balances," Pramono said.

"We believe that she remains firm in her stance of keeping separate her duties as vice president and as party leader."

Pramono further underlined that Megawati was different from Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He said Megawati never intended to topple the President and replace him through the memorandum process, through which Abdurrahman has been censured twice over two financial scandals.

"It is a constitutional process that has to go forward, and Ibu never had the purpose of toppling the President," Pramono contended.

He also denied allegations that Megawati and Abdurrahman were no longer united. According to him, the two continue to have a good personal relationship.

"Ibu Megawati does not have any problems with the National Awakening Party or with Gus Dur," Pramono said, referring to the President by his nickname.

Commenting on a meeting on Wednesday between the leaders of the House factions, Pramono said Megawati accepted the results of the meeting.

He said Megawati was discussing the possibility of inviting political party chairs to a summit to follow up the meeting within a couple of days.

"The factions reported the results of the meeting and Ibu Megawati eagerly accepted its outcome," Pramono said.

Akbar also hailed the results of the meeting, and said he was waiting for PDI Perjuangan to take the initiative to call a second meeting.

"We all agree that we need an effective government that has a clear vision of the country ... we have to say that the current government is not effective," Akbar noted.

Taking a gloomier stance than the President's other supporters, Abdurrahman's younger brother Salahuddin Wahid said it was only a matter of time before his brother left office.

Salahuddin said his brother's own weaknesses had triggered the rising dissatisfaction with his leadership, adding that the President was nearly powerless in the face of his opponents attacks.

"There is little chance that Gus Dur will survive because seven factions in the House have demanded a special session of the Assembly," said Salahuddin. (dja/prb)