Fri, 04 May 2001

Parties eye more than reshuffle

JAKARTA (JP): Major political parties stressed here on Thursday that they wanted more than a mere Cabinet reshuffle from embattled President Abdurrahman Wahid.

House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung said major factions in the House preferred a full delegation of power from the President to Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri because other options would be too costly for the nation.

Akbar, who is also Golkar chairman, pointed out that there were actually four options being contemplated for the President by the political parties that supported the issuance of the second memorandum of censure.

These were: presidential resignation or impeachment, a Cabinet reshuffle, a full delegation of executive power to Megawati to run the government, an expedited general election.

"If the President were impeached it would provoke conflict at the grass roots; if the Cabinet were reshuffled the core problem would still be Gus Dur's own leadership; it is also impossible to hold a general election in the immediate future for numerous reasons," explained Akbar.

The House voted by an overwhelming majority to issue a second censure against the President on Monday, bringing him one step closer to a possible special session of the People's Consultative Assembly which could convene impeachment hearings.

Abdurrahman has one month to respond to the censure, and many believe that a favorable response through a political compromise may be the only thing that could save Abdurrahman's presidency.

Abdurrahman's political liability has further increased, with the usually timid Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) chairperson Megawati taking the initiative to convene a gathering of party leaders to discuss the next political step.

Secretary-general of PDI Perjuangan Soetjipto also dismissed on Thursday the option of a Cabinet reshuffle, saying it would do little to solve the problem.

"The core problem is the President himself and not his Cabinet as the two previous Cabinet reshuffles have proved," he said.

Soetjipto said the party believed the President's poor management of government was also influenced by his health condition.

"If a man has suffered several strokes he must be unstable," Soetjipto said about the blind President.

Asked to comment on the increasing calls for Megawati to take the initiative in replacing Abdurrahman, Soetjipto replied that the party was not in the position of trying to take power.

"Megawati is not greedy for power. If she eventually accepts power it will be due to force majeure. But we are not opportunists," he said.

Abdurrahman, in his first public statement since the censure on Wednesday, skirted the issue of the memorandum and instead reminded the House to deal with its own backlog of work.

Akbar expressed on Thursday his dissatisfaction with the President's televised speech.

"The House was waiting for a positive response in his speech. But on the contrary, he berated the House for neglecting its legislative function," Akbar noted.

"A special session will be inevitable if the President continues taking such a stand," Akbar warned.


All eyes are now on what will happen in the next few days, particularly Saturday's Cabinet meeting, which both Abdurrahman and Megawati are due to attend. Another key event will be the PDI Perjuangan-sponsored political meeting expected next week.

Syamsul Muarif, chairman of the Golkar faction in the House, revealed that Megawati might host the meeting at her private residence in Kebagusan, South Jakarta.

Bachtiar Chamsyah, deputy chairman of PPP, confirmed that PPP chairman Hamzah Haz would attend.

"Our main target is to replace Gus Dur and we will support Megawati leading the nation," said Bachtiar.

Separately, Supreme Advisory Council Chairman Achmad Tirtosudiro believes there is still hope yet for Abdurrahman.

"If the President can improve his performance and avoid making controversial statements, then it is possible the situation could change within one month," Achmad said, after meeting with the Vice President at the Merdeka Selatan Palace.

Meanwhile in Semarang, Nahdlatul Ulama's (NU) Syuriah (law making body) chairman Said Aqil Siradj, said NU members would accept the censure, no matter how bitter.

Said urged that Abdurrahman respond positively by improving his administration's performance, including the eradication of corruption and the restoration of security and public order.

Diponegoro University Rector Eko Budihardjo criticized politicians who called for Abdurrahman's resignation, including Assembly speaker Amien Rais.

"It was Amien who championed Gus Dur's election. Thus as a gentleman he should also resign, along with the President," said Eko, who is also chairman of the Rectors Forum. (rms/dja/har/45)