Sat, 08 Oct 1994

Minister joins campaign to sue columnist Manai

JAKARTA (JP): State Minister of Public Housing Akbar Tanjung has joined fellow former student leaders who helped topple president Sukarno in 1966 in their plan to sue columnist Manai Sophiaan for slander.

"We are preparing a lawsuit against Manai," Akbar, who was part of that student movement in the 1960s, announced yesterday.

"Our first step is to formally file our complaint against Manai with the Jakarta police next week," said Jusril Jusan, who is Akbar's peer and chairman of the Ikatan Keluarga Besar Laskar Ampera Arief Rachman Hakim, an association of student activists in the mid-1960s.

The former activists used the press briefing to refute Manai's allegations that they were paid by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to demonstrate against Sukarno.

Akbar, who began his political career as a student activist, asserted that the street demonstrations in the chaotic year of 1966 were "spontaneous and pure".

He said they were motivated only by the wish to defend the state ideology Pancasila from communism which at the time had begun to gain a foothold here.

The former activists named at least three subjects in Manai's new book about Sukarno, entitled Kehormatan Bagi yang Berhak (Honor for the One Who Deserves It), who they claim tarnished their reputation, the first of which is Manai's allegation that the CIA paid them.

The two other points are Manai's accusations that their yellow jackets, the color of the prestigious University of Indonesia were "made in Hawaii" and that the students' demonstrations were "mere parades".

They said they were not going to raise questions on whether Manai was justified in exempting Sukarno from involvement with the communists, but merely to restore their reputation.

They admitted to not having read the book, having seen the allegations in an interview Manai gave to Tiara magazine.

Akbar said, however, that what he found most abhorrent in Manai's book was the assertion that the Sept. 30, 1965 abortive coup attempt by the now outlawed Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was only a preemptive measure against "another political force planning to topple the regime".

Public apology

"This (book) is an effort to distort history," Akbar said. "The truth is that Bung Karno disregarded our demand to outlaw PKI. He said the communist rebellion was an ordinary incident; a mere ripple in the vast ocean of revolution."

"Bung Karno even said that sometimes revolution preys on itself," he said. The book, he added, can only be written by somebody who wanted to "blur history".

The former student activists, however, appeared to have been at odds with one another. Pressed by reporters, Akbar said the activists' anger would be appeased if Manai made a public apology.

Fahmi Idris and Jusril, however, said they would still press charges against Manai even if the 80-year-old former diplomat apologizes. They hotly denied a reporter's provocative suggestion that the activists' true motive for their harsh reaction against Manai was political leverage.

The press conference took an interesting twist when another former activist, Eki Syachruddin, said that Manai had made his statements about the yellow jackets off the record.

"I am ready to hold a dialog with the former student activists, but if they want to sue me, then let's not hold any discussions at all," Manai was quoted as saying by Eki.

Manai himself appears to be prepared to meet his critics in court. Last week, the former ambassador to Moscow between 1964 and 1967 appointed three lawyers to represent him should these student organizations go ahead with the planned lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Vice President Try Sutrisno urged yesterday that Indonesia let the dead rest in peace, saying all parties should refrain from bringing up questions of a dead person's deeds.

"Let's speak of nothing but the good deeds of the dead," Try told Jusril Jusan who met with him to report about the plan of the latter's organization to hold a congress next week. President Soeharto is scheduled to inaugurate the congress on Oct. 12.

Try's remarks appeared to be directed at preventing the revival of the debate on whether or not Sukarno was involved in the PKI plot in 1965.

Sukarno was toppled in 1967 and died in official disgrace three years later. His name was reinstated when the government of President Soeharto proclaimed him a national hero in the mid- 1980s. (swe)