Sat, 27 Sep 2003

PDI-P rival camps trade lawsuits

Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan, North Sumatra

Two conflicting camps at the municipal branch of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) in the North Sumatra capital of Medan, filed lawsuits on Friday against each other, following a rampage that seriously injured seven people.

Doni Arsal Gultom, who was elected at a party congress on April 12 to head the Medan branch, filed a lawsuit against Megawati Soekarnoputri in her capacity as PDI chairwoman for her rejection of his appointment.

Meanwhile, Usaha Ginting, who was newly elected for the same position during a special congress on Sept. 22, sued Doni and his supporters for storming the Medan branch office on Thursday.

The party's executive board has annulled the first congress' electoral result and accepted the second congress', for unspecified reasons.

Angered by the executive board's decision, thousands of Doni's supporters stormed the party's office on Jl. Menteng Raya here and clashed with 85 supporters of Usaha.

The protesters, many armed with knives, machetes, sickles and other sharp weapons, arrived around 11:30 a.m and tried to take over the building.

The situation was brought under control after the police deployed hundreds of antiriot officers to the location.

Those injured in the violence are reportedly still undergoing intensive medical treatment at a hospital in the city.

Doni said he brought the case to court because the party leadership "annulled the (first) congress' result ... and this annulment means that the party leadership has ignored the people's political aspirations".

"We demand Megawati or the party leadership to return the Rp 5 billion (US$588,235) that was used to finance the first congress," he told The Jakarta Post.

Jumono, a member of the legal team representing Doni, said his client had also sued several members of the party's executive board, including Roy BB Janis and PDI Perjuangan North Sumatra Chairman Rudolf Pardede in the same case.

"We regret the party's rejection of the first congress' results, because the congress was held upon the approval of the executive board," he said.

This is the first occasion the party has involved a court of law to resolve an internal rift, which is usually solved within the party. The executive board has the highest authority in PDI Perjuangan to solve internal disputes.

Japorman Saragih, deputy chairman of the North Sumatra provincial chapter, hailed Doni's decision to resolve the issue through legal recourse, instead of violence.

However, Japorman, who accepted Usaha's appointment to the Medan branch, said his camp had also filed a lawsuit against Doni.

"He (Doni) and his supporters involved in the attack should be held legally responsible for exerting violence in solving the internal rift," he said.

Local police said they were interrogating 14 people allegedly involved in the attack, but no suspects had been arrested yet.

Chief detective of Medan Police Sr. Comr. Maruli Siahaan said they were still searching for those who ransacked the party's building, while ballistics testing was being carried out on a bullet shell which was fired during the attack.