Fri, 14 Oct 1994

PDI and Petisi 50 see eye to eye

JAKARTA (JP): Dissident group Petisi 50 advised the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) yesterday to continue pushing for political reforms.

In a rare public hearing with the minority party's faction in the House of Representatives (DPR), the group members said that various political laws currently serve the interests of the government at the expense of democracy.

They said the laws on general elections, political parties, membership of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR and mass organizations all discouraged people from participating in the political decision making process.

Formed in 1980 and spearheaded by retired marine general Ali Sadikin, Petisi 50 groups prominent figures who formally served the Soeharto government but later turned critical of the president.

Ten of Petisi 50 members that turned up at the meeting included Sadikin, a former governor of Jakarta, Hoegeng Iman Santoso, a former National Police Chief, A.M. Fatwa, S.K Trimurti and Aziz Saleh.

PDI was represented by senior legislators Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno, Sukowaluyo, Royani Amminullah and Sabam Sirait at the lively discussion.

The Petisi 50 members said many laws benefit the government. The law on general elections, for instance, was a case in point as it forbids the contesting parties to criticize the government during election campaigns, they said.

PDI legislators agreed that the party, which is considered by many as an "opposition" party, should continue pushing for political reforms.

"Most of your suggestions have been our long-standing concern," said Sabam.

He said the party has repeatedly proposed that the contestants be involved in the organization of the general election, currently handled by the government, in order to ensure fairness.

Sukowaluyo told the Petisi 50 that PDI was consistent about its commitment to promoting democracy.

He proposed forming a network involving the press, laymen and socio-political organizations to strengthen the push for democratization in the country.

Sadikin said that it had been a great 14 years for the Petisi 50 since its inception because they still survive despite the "unfriendly" treatment by the government, such as travel bans imposed on its members.

Sadikin and other dissidents, like former defense minister Abdul Haris Nasution and Hoegeng, were once barred from traveling overseas.

Petisi 50 member Fatwa told the legislators that he wondered if he still had a chance to become a legislator given his position as a member of the group.

He said that Sadikin, for instance, intended to join PDI in 1979, but was blocked. "If Ali and other friends planned to join PDI, I wonder if the party would dare accept them," he said. (par)