Sat, 13 Aug 1994

Noted ulemas have chosen their candidate for PPP

JAKARTA (JP): Influential ulemas have chosen their candidate for the Moslem-oriented United Development Party (PPP) amid bitter factional rivalry for the organization's top spot.

The 10 senior ulemas from Java and Sumatra who met in the West Java town of Garut on Wednesday declined to reveal their nominee. However, the Antara press agency quoted an insider as saying they have chosen Matori Abdul Djalil, the party's current secretary- general.

They ulemas are all respected figures from the nation's largest Islamic organization, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which merged with three other Moslem parties, Perti, PSII and MI, to form PPP in 1973.

Earlier, senior NU officials said they would announce their candidate ahead of PPP's four-day congress, which is to be opened in Jakarta by President Soeharto on Aug. 28.

NU, formerly a strong political party, retired from practical politics in 1984 to focus on socio-educational matters. It is now striving to end MI's domination in the PPP's top leadership.

The incumbent party chairman, Ismail Hasan Metareum, hails from MI. Still enjoying the government's favor, he is widely tipped to retain his post.

The latest speculation goes that Chalid Mawardi, another MI figure who is a member of the Supreme Advisory Council, and has never been mentioned as an aspirant, has obtained the government's green light to enter the race.


On a separate occasion on Thursday, ulema Yusuf Hasyim said that various leaders within the PPP are busy jockeying for position, thus everything concerning the chairmanship race is still obscure.

"Things will unfold only after the congress is opened," said Yusuf, who heads NU's law making body. He has hinted he might run for election.

Meanwhile, Ismail Hasan has denied long-time allies' charges that he has betrayed their commitment to developing the party together.

Ismail Hasan said that his partners, known as the Group of Eight, have misunderstood the principles of the commitment.

Husni Thamrin, a leading student activist in 1966, was the first of the group members to openly denounce Ismail Hasan's leadership.

In a letter to Ismail Hasan, Thamrin criticized the chairman of harboring suspicions against fellow party members.

The Group of Eight played a vital role in Ismail Hasan's rise to power in 1989. Six of them have now reportedly decided to withdraw their support, saying that he has no political will to develop PPP.

"I will not bid Husni Thamrin goodbye because I believe that his move (to go separate ways) was prompted by misunderstanding," Ismail Hasan told reporters. (pan)