Tue, 08 Aug 2000

More NU-affiliated civilian militiamen head to Jakarta

SURABAYA (JP): At least 2,000 Banser civilian militiamen are leaving for Jakarta from Surabaya over the next two days, despite pleas by police for them to stay at home.

Khusnul Huda Sholeh, the secretary of the East Java branch of the Ansor Youth organization, said here on Monday that two buses carrying 100 Banser members left for Jakarta from the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) East Java branch office on Jl. Raya Darmo, Surabaya, on Sunday.

"Within two days some 55 more buses carrying Banser members will leave for Jakarta. They will leave from their own branch offices," Khusnul said. "Most of them are from Kediri, Jombang, Malang and Pasuruan," he added.

Ansor is the youth wing of the NU, the Muslim organization which Abdurrahman Wahid led for 15 years before he became president. Banser is a civilian militia under its auspices.

Early last week the chairman of the East Java provincial chapter of the National Awakening Party (PKB) Choirul Anam said that hundreds of Banser members had gone to Jakarta.

They are said to be staying at relatives' homes, watching the situation and ready to move upon orders.

The PKB is a political party whose members are mostly from the NU and supporters of President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Before the Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) started, police warned that no one but official MPR security guards and military and police officers would be authorized to safeguard it.

Police have called on all political parties not to send their militiamen to Jakarta during the session.

"I cannot stop them. They have different reasons for going. Some of them told me they wanted to go on a pilgrimage to the graves of the Walisongo (Javanese preachers revered for spreading Islam in Java) and stop off in Jakarta. Others said they would join NU members who are at the Hotel Indonesia for a coordinating meeting," said Khusnul.

In a related development, chairman of the NU's East Java chapter, Ali Maschan Moesa, said that the Banser militiamen in Jakarta were only expressing their willingness to participate in safeguarding the Annual Session.

"We cannot stop them from showing their worthy attitudes. Are they doing anything wrong by wanting to help make the Annual Session a success?"

Maschan said he was confident that none of "his men" would cause trouble in Jakarta.

From the Central Java provincial capital of Semarang, deputy chairman of the provincial chapter of the PKB Ircham Abdurrochim said tens of thousands of pro-Abdurrahman PKB supporters had expressed their readiness to go to Jakarta.

He said most of those who wanted to go to Jakarta were from Kendal, Tegal, Pekalongan, Demak, Semarang, Brebes along with other towns.

"We have asked them not to go, despite the fact that they want to do so on their own initiative. They said they were concerned after learning that certain parties have attacked the President," Irchom said, adding that they did not want to see him toppled during the session.

He said the PKB members' willingness to go to Jakarta was understandable. "They are citizens who feel responsible for the continuation of President Abdurrahman's term, at least until 2004."

"We fully trust the police's security arrangements before, during and after the session. However, if the MPR members use the forum to impeach and unseat the President, there will be chaos," he warned. (nur/har/sur)