Thu, 30 Mar 2000

PDI-P major posts race heating up

SEMARANG (JP): The race for key posts in the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) heated up here on Wednesday as senior official Bondan Gunawan announced his candidacy.

Claiming to be a follower of founding president Sukarno's teachings, Bondan, the acting state secretary and a close aide of President Abdurrahman Wahid, told an evening conference that he was prepared for any position in the party's central executive board.

"I'm ready to do anything for PDI Perjuangan if the congress needs me and the party is still adhering to Sukarno's teachings," he said.

Bondan refused to reveal a specific position that he might be considering, but many have said that with the reelection of incumbent chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri almost certain, he could run for the secretary-general post. Deputy chairman Roy Janis is thought to be another strong contender for the job.

A number of banners in support of Megawati and Bondan were seen hanging across the city.

Bondan denied, however, that Abdurrahman was behind his campaign.

"It's not the way Gus Dur behaves," he said.

He admitted that Abdurrahman had met with Roeslan Abdulgani, one of PDI Perjuangan's senior activists, to discuss ways of improving the political parties in the country.

Bondan stated that during the meeting Abdurrahman recommended the party recruit Bondan to help strengthen it.

To convince the press that he deserved the candidacy, Bondan showed his party membership card issued by the party's Central Jakarta branch in 1998 when it was called Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI).

"I cannot understand why certain PDI Perjuangan elites do not recognize my membership," he mused.

Eros Djarot, who is running for the top post in place of Megawati, has fallen victim to organizational procedures. The party's South Jakarta branch has refused to recognize the Detak weekly chief editor as its representative to the congress.

So far only Eros and the party's deputy chairman Dimyati Hartono have announced their bid for the top post. Both confirmed their candidacy on Wednesday.

Dimyati said that despite the huge support for Megawati, he would go ahead with his candidacy because he saw something wrong in the party.

"I will not give up, and I hope Eros won't either, in offering alternatives other than Megawati to the congress participants," he said.

He decided to go ahead with his candidacy because a number of branches had pledged their support for him. He said he was sure Megawati would be reelected but his participation in the election is expected to give the process a democratic bounce.

Eros said that despite his small chances of winning he wouldn't quit.

He stated that he was concerned about the negative climate in the congress, since participants were not given an opportunity to know that party figures have been nominating themselves for certain positions.

Another incident marred the congress as hundreds of journalists staged a sit-in protest in front of the Patra Jasa hotel, the venue of the congress.

The demonstrators, including photographers and TV cameramen, laid down their equipment and slammed congress organizers for deploying security guards to prevent them from covering a particular session.

"Boycott the congress," dozens shouted. "PDI Perjuangan is not a democratic party," others said.

A party executive, Sophan Sophian, regretted the organizers decision, saying it was undemocratic.

"If I was presiding over the congress I would give journalists as much access as possible. It is by no means to our advantage to keep them from properly covering such events," he said. (rms/har/swa)