Sat, 12 Aug 2000

Megawati, aides doubt Gus Dur's promises

JAKARTA (JP): There remains a lingering apprehension in some quarters close to Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri about the truthfulness of the President's announcement that he would delegate more power to her.

This wariness was in part reinforced on Friday when President Abdurrahman Wahid said he was not delegating authority to Megawati but rather day-to-day duties.

Pramono Anung, deputy secretary general of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), conceded there was a degree of suspicion among the party's rank-and-file.

However, he expressed hope that through his statesmanship Abdurrahman would realize the consequences of failing to fulfill his commitment to the country.

"We also expect the Assembly issues a recommendation as a political umbrella for the Vice President while our presidential system remains intact," Pramono told The Jakarta Post.

Separately, one of Megawati's aides at the vice presidential office said to the Post that the vice president herself was also somewhat skeptical about the President's promise, given that he had made similar pledges to share duties with her before.

"I have known him for a long time, and I know that he will never voluntarily give me a great role in the government," one of the vice president's assistants, who asked not to be named, quoted Megawati as telling her aides soon after the President's announcement at the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) plenary session on Wednesday.

The aide pointed out that the President's initial stance to introduce a first minister or a coordinating minister to manage daily government affairs was an indication of his reluctance to empower Megawati.

A vice presidential official pointed out that the President's pledge to delegate more duties to Megawati was not a new development, saying he had made similar statements in the past. The problem is Megawati has never been given the appropriate authority to carry out these responsibilities, he added.

Over the past 10 months, the President has issued seven decrees authorizing the Vice President to handle various issues, from violence in Maluku to separatist sentiments in Riau and Irian Jaya.

"Ibu Megawati has practically never been fully authorized to handle these matters despite repeated promises," the official said.

Despite this, the official was confident the Vice President would not exploit the Assembly's growing dissatisfaction with Abdurrahman to consolidate her own power, saying she strictly abided by the 1945 Constitution.

During a Wednesday meeting with her aides, Megawati recalled how last year some Assembly factions had tried to ensure that she would not play significant role in the government.

"But now these factions which opposed me last year are coming to me just because they are no longer happy with the President," the aide quoted Megawati as saying, while adding that she remarked that "those who underestimated my capabilities now praise me."

Despite the disappointments, Megawati seems committed to assisting and supporting the President in leading the country, said the official. (prb)