Fri, 11 Feb 2000

PAN starts congress amid controversy

YOGYAKARTA (JP): The National Mandate Party (PAN) began its first ever congress here Thursday evening under the shadow of controversy and threats of resignation from senior executives over possible changes to its founding political platforms.

Despite assertion from PAN chairman Amien Rais that the party would remain faithful to its founding statutes, it was clear that the party was in disarray as the issue of the changes monopolized discussions in the run-up to the opening ceremony.

However, Amien made it clear in his opening address to the congress that PAN must remain nationalist and pluralist.

"I hope that through this congress the openness and pluralist platforms of the National Mandate Party will be maintained," he said.

The opening ceremony was also attended by politicians from other political parties such as Golkar Party chairman Akbar Tandjung, the secretary general of Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) Alex Litaay and executive member of the National Awakening Party, Taufiqurrahman Saleh.

The Minister of National Education Yahya Muhaimin and Minister of Finance Bambang Sudibyo were also among the guests.

Controversy has surrounded PAN since a group of party executives led by A.M. Fatwa suggested the adoption of the religious term iman dan takwa (faith and devotion) in addition to its existing platforms of Pancasila, which is the state ideology.

He contended that it would not change the party's main platform.

The suggestion came under fire from PAN Secretary General Faisal Basri who threatened to quit the party if it was adopted.

He suggested that the move was intended to convert PAN into an Islamist party.

Minutes before the opening of the congress Faisal reiterated that there should be no substantial changes.

"I can tolerate minor changes. But 'iman and takwa' is not a universal term and will be associated with Islamic teaching. This will mean the party is not pluralist anymore," Faisal told journalists.

During a gathering here earlier Thursday afternoon in front of some 100,000 activists and supporters, Amien conceded that there may be minor changes, however he stressed that such amendments should not veer from the main foundations in which the party was formed in 1998.

"There will surely be some minor changes, perfecting here and there, but God willing the party's identity will remain the same," Amien said.

Amien brushed aside talk of a split inside the party and called it the work of the media. He said there were merely different opinions, but it would not lead to a split.

Yogyakarta Governor Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, among the guests at the afternoon gathering at Mandala Krida stadium, also expressed hope PAN would remain a nationalist party.

"PAN should stay consistent with its goal to bring Indonesia to a better future," he said.

He noted that PAN should be an example of democracy as it was known to the public as one of the frontrunners in the reform movement.

In the afternoon Yogyakarta became a sea of blue and white, the party's colors, as a parade involving thousands circled the city streets. (swa/edt/sur/44/04)