Mon, 22 Mar 1999

Ministers can campaign, says Akbar Tandjung

JAKARTA (JP): Amid increasing demands that all ministers be banned from campaigning, Golkar party chairman Akbar Tandjung is maintaining there is no inherent conflict of interest.

Akbar, also Minister/State Secretary, said on Sunday just because ministers held a political post and were state officials should not preclude them from the campaign process.

"They should be allowed to campaign as long as there is no conflict of interest. (If so) they can take leave," he said.

Ministers would be eligible to campaign only with the President's permission Akbar said, after attending a party function in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara.

On Monday the General Elections Commission (KPU) is scheduled to decide whether to allow Cabinet ministers to campaign for parties contesting the June 7 polls.

In Yogyakarta, Commission deputy chairman Harun Alrasid said on Saturday all ministers would be banned from campaigning except for Akbar and State Minister of Investment Hamzah Haz. The latter chairs the United Development Party.

"How can we ban party chairmen from campaigning?" Harun said.

The Commission would soon issue a ruling against the abuse of state facilities, he said.

Regional civil servants need no longer greet visiting party executives, who happened to be their superiors, he said.

Responding to public outrage over former ministerial prerogative to freely campaign for Golkar, the practice would no longer be allowed, Harun said.

Minister of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Adi Sasono, earlier said he will not campaign for Golkar, but Akbar insisted there was "no excuse" for ministers not to campaign.

Almost all ministers are Golkar executives.

"Their position in the government cannot be separated from the support of their respective organizations," Akbar said.

Separately, Adi said on Sunday he would opt for the "larger interest" and refrain from campaigning, in an effort to recover public trust in the government.

In Jakarta, Chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN) Amien Rais, said President B.J. Habibie should ban all ministers from campaigning.

"If a minister campaigns, he will most likely bring along all of his assistants ... with pockets full of money ... this can easily develop into money politics," Amien said on Saturday, after launching his book on corruption.

Amien reiterated demands that Akbar resign from his ministerial post if he wished to remain Golkar chairman.

In Yogyakarta, PAN secretary general Faisal Basri, said the KPU should rule against the use of state facilities in campaigning, which ministers would most likely abuse otherwise.

Recent visits to the regions by chairman of the Supreme Advisory Board A.A. Baramuli, were ill-disguised Golkar campaigns, he said.

Five of the 37 ministers have been barred from campaigning.

They are the Minister of Home Affairs Syarwan Hamid, Minister of Justice Muladi, Minister of Security and Defense/ Armed Forces Commander Gen. Wiranto, Attorney General A.M. Ghalib and Coordinating Minister for Development Supervision and Administrative Reforms Hartarto.

Apart from Adi Sasono, State Minister of Food and Horticulture A.M. Saefuddin of the United Development Party, earlier announced he would not participate in campaigning. (29/edt/23/44)