Wed, 09 Jul 2003

PKB Alwi Shihab wins party battle

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights announced on Tuesday the National Awakening Party (PKB) led by Alwi Shihab can undergo screening to determine whether it meets the requirements for a political party.

The PKB split into two groups -- one led by Alwi Shihab and the other by Minister of Defense Matori Abdul Djalil -- in 2001, with each faction claiming to be the legitimate party.

The decision by the justice ministry to begin the verification of the Alwi Shihab-led PKB faction in effect recognizes that faction as the legitimate PKB. This paves the way for the faction to take part in the 2004 legislative elections and to receive Rp 16 billion in government funds.

The Supreme Court earlier issued a ruling that also favored the Alwi Shihab camp.

Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said on Tuesday the decision was made "based on legal considerations", brushing aside suggestions it was politically motivated.

"The ministry has decided to begin the verification process for the party led by Pak Alwi Shihab, and expects that the legal efforts being carried out by Pak Matori Abdul Djalil will not affect this decision," Yusril said.

Yusril was referring to the appeal filed by Matori with the Supreme Court, asking for a review of the court's decision to award Alwi Shihab's faction the right to use PKB's name, logo and anthem.

In other legal maneuverings, the South Jakarta District Court recently issued a decision suggesting that Matori's earlier dismissal from the party was groundless.

The Alwi Shihab-led PKB faction appealed the decision to the Jakarta High Court, which last Friday ruled, "Matori's dismissal was legal, and therefore he cannot use the party's attributes."

"I believe that the Supreme Court understands that there cannot be two decisions on the same subject. I hope the court issues a verdict that does not overrule its first verdict," Yusril said, referring to Matori's request for a legal review.

Matori was the chairman of the PKB but was dismissed from the party after backing a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly that ousted Abdurrahman Wahid from the presidency in 2001. Abdurrahman was one of the founders of the PKB.

The internal rift has hampered the party's registration with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, which is a requirement for participation in the 2004 elections.

Abdurrahman contacted President Megawati Soekarnoputri's husband Taufik Kiemas, seeking his help in resolving the dispute. It is not clear whether Taufik had anything to do with the ministry's decision to verify Alwi's PKB faction.

Alwi, along with other PKB executives, attended a press conference and expressed satisfaction over the ministry's decision.

PKB deputy chairman Mahfud M.D. said the decision would enable the party to contest the 2004 elections, as well as to receive some Rp 16 billion in funds from the government.

Separately, Matori's lawyer Alamsyah Hanafiah said his client was considering filing a complaint with the State Administrative Court against the ministry's decision, arguing that "the legal battle between the two parties is still ongoing and should not be halted".