Mon, 22 Aug 1994

Outspoken Bintang is running for PPP chairmanship

JAKARTA (JP): Outspoken politician Sri Bintang Pamungkas entered the battle for the top spot of the Moslem-based United Development Party (PPP) yesterday, saying the current leadership is too passive to develop the potential of the organization.

Claiming to have obtained the support of some 75 percent of the 304 PPP branches at the regency level, Bintang said he has stated his intention to the PPP executive board, chairpersons of PPP branches throughout Indonesia, the President, Vice President and other high-ranking officials.

"Many people support me, and I know I can be a better leader," he said confidently. "This party and the total political climate have to be enlivened."

PPP will elect the new leadership in its five yearly congress next week.

In a press conference to formally announce his plan to run, Bintang said a growing rush of "undercurrents", a popular catch-phrase used to describe people's support of certain causes, had convinced him that he must enter the race.

It is very likely, however, that Bintang will face hurdles. For instance his term of service in the party is not long enough to meet the requirements. Besides, he is not even eligible to attend the party's congress, to start on Aug. 29, as he does not represent any branch office.

Bintang, however, brushed the problems aside, saying his supporters will see to it that plenary sessions discussing party's statutes will, one way or another, result in some bending of the rules in his favor.

Incumbent PPP chairman Ismail Hasan Metareum, in a bid to make the party more attractive to intellectuals and younger people, made Bintang a vote getter in the 1992 general election and then posted him at the House of Representatives. His recruitment had once invited criticism because it was conducted in ways not officially sanctioned by party regulations.

Bintang is known for his critical stance on many of the government's, and his own party's, leadership's policies. For some younger people, however, he represents a fresh change from the usually sedate politicians.

During the last two days alone, for instance, he launched sharp attacks against Ismail and PPP Secretary General Matori Abdul Djalil of "weakening" PPP and putting it in a subservient role to the executive branch of bureaucracy.


"These two should be held accountable for PPP weaknesses now," he said Saturday. Yesterday he said, "I call on PPP leaders who have failed, who beg for support from the power holders, to resign and not run again".

During the press briefing yesterday, he also criticized the government for reducing the people's political rights, and called on it to take their hands off the political parties, including PPP.

"I protest any government attempt to interfere with this party, including the interviews by officials of the Home Affairs Ministry with PPP leaders who are coming to the congress."

"I protest the military's statement that they are preparing a number of troops to safeguard the PPP congress next week," he said. "This country is not in a state of emergency."

Accompanied by a number of people calling themselves "The Success Team for Bintang", he pledged to bring the PPP up from its currently "marginal position" to the center of the political arena.

"I commit myself to improve the roles of political parties," he said, while his supporters' murmured "God is the Greatest" and "If God is willing it'll happen".

Reading out his political statement, Bintang also discussed a number of issues which he said were crucial to the domestic political life. This included demands that presidential terms be limited and political parties be given the right to choose their own presidential candidates.

Under his leadership, Bintang vowed, PPP will once again defend the Moslems and the general public, instead of letting internal, factional bickerings to dominate its activities.

A number of people in PPP have called Bintang ungrateful. "He came into the party and became PPP representative in the House because the current leaders asked him to," a source told The Jakarta Post. "Now he's betrayed Ismail". (swe)