Tue, 01 Aug 2000

Megawati last to confirm for Yogya summit

JAKARTA (JP): Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri agreed on Monday to attend a meeting with three other national leaders in Yogyakarta on Tuesday after some intensive lobbying by President Abdurrahman Wahid and Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, the ruler of the tiny Javanese kingdom who will host the summit.

She became the last of the four leaders to confirm her attendance at the summit which will bring her together with the President, People Consultative Assembly (MPR) Chairman Amien Rais and House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung.

Until her confirmation on Monday, the summit had been touch and go, with Amien stressing that he would only go to Yogyakarta if Megawati attended.

Word of Megawati's attendance came after she ordered her staff to prepare for a one-day trip to Yogyakarta. "She will depart for Yogyakarta from Halim Perdanakusuma Airport at 8:15 a.m.," a source close to Megawati told The Jakarta Post on Monday evening.

The decision was taken on Monday following representations made by the President and the Sultan, sources said.

Both men had argued that the meeting would greatly contribute to reducing the political tension ahead of next week's MPR meeting, according to the sources.

Megawati was especially touched by the Sultan, who told her on the phone that her presence was a key for the success of the meeting, an aide said.

The Sultan, who is convening the luncheon political meeting in between the royal festivities to mark his 56th birthday, also broke the news in Yogyakarta on Monday.

"She personally stated to me her readiness to come," he said.

Earlier in the morning, President Abdurrahman sent Minister of Mines and Energy Lt. Gen. (ret.) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to persuade Megawati to go to Yogyakarta, sources said.

Before attending a weekly cabinet meeting at Bina Graha presidential office, Abdurrahman met with Megawati at the Merdeka Palace, his official residence. They were seen arriving for the Cabinet meeting in a golf buggy.

Abdurrahman and Megawati will fly on two different planes because state protocol prohibits them from traveling together.

A highly publicized plan for a similar meeting between the four leaders at a five-star hotel in Jakarta on July 12 failed to materialize after Megawati refused to take part.

There has been a fierce debate about the significance of a gathering of the country's four major political leaders in Yogyakarta.

Supporters of the meeting said it would send a message of unity among the four figures, who also lead the country's main political parties, at a time when the country was facing a major multidimensional crisis.

Skeptics said the meeting would not be likely to produce anything substantial which would ease the country's problems.

A meeting involving Abdurrahman, Amien, Megawati and the Sultan in November 1998 helped to give strong impetus to the student-led reformation movement at the time. At the time, Abdurrahman, Amien and Megawati were not holding any government posts but were respected public figures.

It remains unclear what impact such a meeting will have on the political situation in the country given that the four figures have been at odds with each other.

Akbar and Amien, whose political factions combined to elect Abdurrahman at the MPR meeting in October, are now among the most vocal critics of the President and the Vice President.

Akbar leads the Golkar party and Amien heads the National Mandate Party (PAN). Megawati is chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) while Abdurrahman is patron of the National Awakening Party (PKB).

The Yogyakarta Sultan on Monday tried to reflect the public's expectations of the summit.

"If I may echo the aspirations of the people, I hope they will communicate with each other for the sake of the people," he said after inspecting Gedung Jene where the summit will be held.

Professing that he would only play the role of a host, the governor said he hoped the four leaders would be able to shed their political interests and personal ambitions at the meeting.

He did not rule out the possibility of heated debates given the divergent political views of the four leaders but hoped that the leaders would demonstrate their statesmanship by putting the nation's interests ahead of their own.

"I hope the meeting can bring the four leaders to a reconciliation," he said.

Chairman of the organizing committee of the gathering, Prince GBPH Joyokusumo, said the meeting would last for two hours from 11 a.m. The leaders are scheduled to address a media conference shortly after the meeting.

Yogyakarta Police Chief Brig. Gen. Dadang Sutrisno said about 3,000 police and military personnel would be deployed to safeguard the meeting.

"The task forces of political parties will not be involved to secure the meeting," Dadang said. (44/dja/prb)