Mon, 20 Nov 2000

NU Jakarta supports Gus Dur until 2004

JAKARTA (JP): The Jakarta chapter of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) pledged on Saturday to support President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid amid a slew of resignation calls from various quarters.

In a ceremony marking the 74th anniversary of the country's largest Muslim organization, the chapter's executives, on behalf of NU and the indigenous Betawi community in Jakarta, stated that they were ready to defend Gus Dur until their last drop of blood.

"In the wake of denunciations and criticism calling for the President's resignation, which is unconstitutional, NU Jakarta and the Betawi people will support the President until his term ends," Zaenal Arifin read out the chapter's statement in Tebet, South Jakarta.

The chapter became the first in the NU family to declare its support for Abdurrahman, who was the organization's chairman for 15 years before being elected president last year.

Protests against the way Abdurrahman runs the government has grown into demands that he steps down. With the People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais joining the opposition, fears have loomed that the bickering could spark a massive conflict between supporters of NU and Muhammadiyah, the second largest Muslim oganization once chaired by Amien.

Minister of Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Zarkasih Noor, who was among the 1,500 NU suporters attending Saturday's celebration, lashed out at critics who demanded Abdurrahman step down for failing to cope with the complicated problems facing the nation.

"It's naive to ask Gus Dur to step down because he was unable to settle the problems," Zarkasih said.

Zarkasih added that whoever had been elected the country's president would have been unable to settle the country's challenges in a year.

He called on NU supporters not to react angrily or be provoked by demands for the President to resign.

He also suggested that parties wishing to see Gus Dur resign, submit their aspirations to the House of Representatives.

"Just send the demand to the House. It should be conducted constitutionally," Zarkasih, who is also deputy chairman of the United Development Party, said.

Meanwhile, Muhammadiyah deputy chairman Rosyad Soleh warned that certain parties were trying to pit the country's biggest Muslim organizations against each other.

"If a conflict occurs, Indonesian Muslims would be in danger as the two organizations are large," Rosyad said in the opening ceremony of Muhammadiyah's Jambi chapter meeting.

Commenting on Amien's call, Rosyad said that the MPR Speaker should no longer be viewed as having any relation with the organization.

"Amien should not be linked to Muhammadiyah," Rosyad was quoted by Antara as saying on Saturday.

Amien, who also chairs the National Mandate Party (PAN), has repeatedly asked the President to resign. His statements have sparked anger among supporters of Abdurrahman, especially in East Java.

Meanwhile social observer Franz Magnis Suseno said demands for Abdurrahman to step down showed a distinct lack of understanding about the democratic culture prevailing in the society.

"A democratic country should not be focusing on how to dismiss the incumbent president but more on the policies," Franz said.

"Demanding the President resign will not solve the problem", Franz said.

Franz also said the People's Consultative Assembly's threat to impeach the President was excessive it as he believes the 1945 Constitution states that a president is installed to carry out a five-year mandate.

"There should be very strong (constitutional) reasons to hold a special session, such as if Gus Dur violates the constitution or deviates from the State Policy Guidelines".

Franz further warned that ousting Gus Dur and Vice Megawati Soekarnoputri before the end of their tenure would be a devastating turn for the development of democracy in Indonesia.

"That is why the people should avoid it," Franz said.(02/jun)