Tue, 10 Jun 2003

PAN doles out free lunches

MAKASSAR, South Sulawesi: Hundreds of pedicab (becak) drivers crowded into Karebosi Stadium here on Monday to meet National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman Amien Rais, with some of them admitting they had been promised food and cash to attend.

The pedicab drivers wore PAN T-shirts and adorned their vehicles with party banners.

Some of them said they were invited by PAN officials at the district level, who gave each of them three coupons and a name card of the party branch chief in their respective districts. They then exchanged the coupons for T-shirts, a free lunch and Rp 15,000 in cash.

"We were promised money, so I decided to come here, and I want to meet Pak Amien face to face," one of the drivers, Ahmad, told The Jakarta Post.

The pedicab drivers had to wait for three hours, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., under a scorching sun for Amien, who appealed to the potential party supporters to vote for "clean" presidential and legislative candidates in the 2004 elections.

The dialog preceded the opening of the party's national congress, in which they will select a running mate for presidential candidate Amien, later in the day.

Providing "gifts" for potential voters is known to be a common practice among some political parties and organizations in the country. -- JP