Sat, 09 Oct 1999

Next president must have 'vision of national unity'

JAKARTA (JP): The People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) will pose an additional test to presidential candidates to gauge whether they have the vision to maintain the nation's unity.

"This additional requirement is quite urgent since we have just lost East Timor and are facing the threat of disintegration. We do not want to lose Aceh, Irian Jaya and other provinces," the chairman of the Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee II, Sabam Sirait, said here on Friday after the committee's deliberations on the requirements for the next president and vice president.

He said that ahead of the presidential election, all candidates should present their vision on how to maintain national unity and prevent disintegration.

"The most important thing is that the candidates should unveil concrete steps to maintain national unity and to seek peaceful solutions to the problems in Aceh, Ambon and Irian Jaya," he said.

Sabam, also a deputy chairman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), said his committee also adopted the common criteria for a president as stated in the 1945 Constitution.

"All factions agreed that the next president must win the support of the majority of the people, must not be involved in banned organizations, must not be serving a jail sentence and is mentally and physically healthy," he said.

Sabam was cautious when asked whether Abdurrahman Wahid, who was nominated for the presidency by the Assembly's Reform faction, met all of the criteria.

"The committee did not discuss individual presidential candidates, but the common criteria for the next president," he said.

The charismatic Abdurrahman has impaired vision, but said his sight had improved after recent medical treatment in the United States.

Sabam said the committee also recommended that the Assembly establish a team to select presidential candidates.

Separately, committee deputy chairwoman Aisyah Aminy said the body also put forward two methods for electing the next president: Secret ballot and the so-called deliberation-for- consensus.

"It depends on which method the MPR General Session elects to use, because both are applicable," she said, adding that what mattered most was that the presidential election was fair.

Meanwhile, Ad Hoc Committee III tasked with deliberating constitutional amendments agreed not to make changes to the Constitution's preface or to the state ideology Pancasila.

"All factions in the subcommittee agreed to revise only those chapters which could lead to misinterpretation," committee chairman Harun Kamil said.

He said the committee was still divided over the existence of the Supreme Advisory Council and the presence of Indonesian Military (TNI) and regional representatives in the Assembly.

Several factions proposed the advisory council be disbanded because it functioned poorly, he said.

He also said some committee members proposed TNI and regional representatives be dropped from the Assembly because they were not elected in the general election.

Separately, the TNI/National Police faction in the Assembly suggested that in the future, the TNI commander should be approved by the House of Representatives in order to maintain the military's neutrality.

Maj. Gen. Tayo Tarmadi, a member of Ad Hoc Committee I on State Policy Guidelines, said that in the past, the military served the government instead of the people partly because its chiefs were appointed by the president.

"TNI is not part of the executive branch. According to the Constitution, TNI belongs to the state and is in charge of the defense and security of the state," he said.

In Ujungpandang, South Sulawesi, journalist Sinansari Ecip called on the Assembly to insert a clause in the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of the press.

"The Constitution should guarantee freedom of the press in order to help the future development of democracy," he told The Jakarta Post. (rms/05/27)