Mon, 14 Aug 2000

Observers say MPR blackmailing President

JAKARTA (JP): Observers lashed out at People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) legislators on Sunday for pushing for a decree to formalize the task-sharing agreement between President Abdurrahman Wahid and the Vice President, saying it was an attempt to blackmail the President ahead of a planned Cabinet reshuffle.

Some of the observers also accused the Golkar Party and what they called "survivors of the old regime" of masterminding the move in a bid to resume power.

Ali Sadikin, the founder of government critics group Petisi (Petition) 50, said in a statement that the politicians were aiming to horse-trade Abdurrahman's power away.

"The move to propose the decree has obviously trespassed the president's prerogatives. Those ideas are thus unconstitutional," Ali, a former Jakarta governor, said.

He said Assembly legislators, who are now convening for their first Annual Session, were trying to suggest the decree was needed because of the ineffective government of Abdurrahman.

"Of course I won't stop criticizing President Abdurrahman for the slow pace of his government in solving the various problem plaguing the nation ... But it's very unfair to lay the shortcomings on his shoulders," Ali said.

He said the issuance of such a decree would repeat the past mistakes made by political parties' intervening in the recruitment of Cabinet ministers, which according to the 1945 Constitution is the president's prerogative.

"Such a compromise is proven to prevent the Cabinet from working effectively," Ali said.

Abdurrahman, under fire for his government's performance, told the Assembly last Wednesday he would assign Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri with the day-to-day technical work of running the government and restructuring the Cabinet.

Human rights activist Hendardi said the plan to release the decree was not only political blackmail, but "a covert coup" against the President.

"This is a test case for those political groupings trying to strengthen their bargaining power, which predictably deals with how many seats they are asking for in the new Cabinet," Hendardi said.

He speculated the efforts would lead to "a political trap" set by supporters of the old regime at the expense of Megawati and the reform movement.

"For the same reasons, they will repeat their move against Megawati. It's clear, however, that the root of ineffective government is the politics of horse trading," Hendardi said.

Political expert Muhammad Bisri from the Semarang-based State Islamic Institute shared Hendardi's view, saying any such decree would finally be aimed at striking both Abdurrahman and Megawati.

"Both the President and Vice President will be vulnerable to attacks using such a decree, if they are considered unable to manage the government," Bisri said.

Another political analyst, Ali Mufiz, said the decree would create complications if changes were made to the task-sharing arrangement.

"Should an annual session which costs us Rp 25 billion be held to formalize the changes?" he asked.

Political expert from Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University Riswandha Imawan said the decree could be avoided if Abdurrahman changed his inconsistent ways and improved his managerial skills. (har/amd)