PKB awaiting Sarwono, Susilo to join party
JAKARTA (JP): National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Matori Abdul Djalil claimed on Saturday Minister of Mines and Energy Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Minister of Maritime Exploration Sarwono Kusumaatmadja would officially join PKB.
Matori maintained that in recent discussions, the two ministers had stated their willingness to join the party.
He also revealed his intention to appoint the two to seats on the party's central executive board.
"From our recent discussions with the two ministers, they have agreed to join PKB," Matori told The Jakarta Post.
He added that the specific party posts to be given the two would be decided during the party's national congress in June.
PKB was formed in 1999 with broad support from Nadhatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organization in the country. The party is also the biggest political supporter of President Abdurrahman Wahid, who is a former chairman of NU and helped establish the party.
In the June 1999 general election, PKB was the third largest vote-getter after the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) and Golkar Party.
Matori said the recruitment of the ministers was aimed at establishing PKB as a more open and nationalist party.
Recently a number of members of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), including Nico Daryanto and B.N. Marbun, have jumped ship to join PKB.
However, Sarwono told the Post he had not confirmed that he would officially join PKB.
"I only said that I would help, and have not yet decided to join the party, especially with a seat on the central executive board," he said.
Sarwono maintained he had only spoken to Matori about assisting the party in various nonofficial duties, such as presenting ideas or suggestions, but not as an active party member.
"Basically, I will help any political party that asks for my help," he said.
When asked whether he would consider joining the party, Sarwono said he could not answer that question now. "Right now I am concentrating more on public service in the government, not in political parties."
Sarwono affirmed that he was officially a member of Golkar Party, although he said he was uncertain about his status in the party.
Susilo recently retired from the military, freeing him to join a political party.
Political observers J. Kristiadi and Riswandha Imawan are of the opinion that the plan to recruit Sarwono and Susilo is part of PKB's effort to find national figures who will help the party keep up with its nationalist-oriented competitors.
"It's a first step for PKB to become a purely inclusive party. The party realizes that it should accept pluralism if it wants to win in the 2004 general election," Kristiadi, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said on Sunday.
He stated that a political party which lapses into hermeticism, whether religions, ethnic or otherwise, will never win the election.
PKB, he said, is trying to emulate PDI Perjuangan and the Golkar Party.
According to Kristiadi, Nahdladul Ulama, which makes up the party's largest supporting grassroots constituency, would not reject Sarwono and Susilo and other non-NU recruits since the organization has been known for its moderateness and tolerance.
"I know NU leaders well, they will not reject the outsiders. NU will remain a mass organization and PKB will become the affiliated political party," he said.
Citing an example, he said PKB accepted the entry of former PDI secretary-general Nico and deputy chairman Marbun, who are Catholics.
Riswandha from Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University said that PKB recruited the likes of Sarwono and Susilo to improve its human resources.
"PKB is known as a party with huge followers in the grassroots arena but it lacks qualified cadres," Riswandha said.
He warned, however, that the arrival of strong figures could change the direction of the party and possibly throw its platform into turmoil.
Riswandha dismissed fears that the recruitment of Sarwono and Susilo would hamper PKB's close relations with PDI Perjuangan, saying that the two figures do not have records of opposition to the country's largest party. (44/dja/jun)