Thu, 26 Oct 2000

PKB official labels Sjahrir Soeharto lackey

JAKARTA (JP): The National Awakening Party (PKB) has accused noted economist Sjahrir of acting in the interests of former president Soeharto when he called on President Abdurrahman Wahid on Monday to stand down for failing to pursue the reform agenda.

Legislator A. Effendy Choirie, a spokesman for the party founded by Abdurrahman, also claimed on Wednesday that Sjahrir had personal motives in calling for the President's resignation.

"We feel that Sjahrir's statement represented Soeharto's interests," Effendy said referring to the widely publicized media conference held by Sjahrir on Monday.

He noted that Sjahrir on that occasion was accompanied by Benny Soetrisno, a businessman who runs a textile company belonging to Soeharto's son Bambang Trihatmodjo.

He also noted the presence of Masmiar Mangiang, chief editor of the Neraca daily which has been involved in a land dispute with the Nahdlatul Ulama organization formerly chaired by Abdurrahman.

"So, this is an effort to shake the government which has been conducting a legal process against Soeharto, his sons and cronies," Effendy remarked.

"It's Sjahrir's right to vent his opinions, but we believe that he has done so because of his own personal disappointment," he said.

Effendy was alluding to the fact that Sjahrir is not in the cabinet while Rizal Ramli, who was a junior college activist to Sjahrir, is now the Coordinating Minister for the Economy.

Sjahrir said on Monday that the reform process which started in 1998 was now as good as dead because Abdurrahman had failed to put the reform agenda into effect as he had promised when elected president a year ago. He cited the failure of the government to prosecute human rights abusers and continued corruption in the government as evidence of the administration's shortcomings.

Effendy said that in making his statement on Monday, Sjahrir had gone outside his area of competence, namely economics.

"He is smart in cloaking his hidden agenda with reform objectives," said Effendy, a former editor of the Surabaya-based Surya daily.

The attacks against the President by Sjahrir and others were politically motivated, but they would not succeed in bringing him down, he said.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), Amien Rais, said on Wednesday that President Abdurrahman should resign if allegations of his involvement in two financial scandals were proven.

The House of Representatives is currently investigating the "Buloggate" and "Bruneigate" scandals, both of which may involve the President or his close aides.

If its inquiries support the allegations, the House could recommend the MPR to convene an emergency session, Amien said, referring to an impeachment process.

"But I would prefer to ask Abdurrahman to resign. It would be less expensive," Amien told a seminar on the search for a national leader organized by KAHMI, the association of alumni of the Muslim Students Union.

Amien also accused the President of betraying the mandate of the people to eradicate corruption, collusion, and nepotism (KKN), pointing to the two scandals and his statement on delaying the legal process against three businessmen supposedly on the grounds of their contribution to Indonesia's exports.

He also said the President had failed to safeguard the unity of the country given the growing demands for independence in Irian Jaya and Aceh. "We are on the verge of losing two more provinces on the heels of East Timor," he said.

Amien took the opportunity to apologize to the nation for it was he and his "Central Axis" faction in the MPR who nominated Abdurrahman for president last year.

House Speaker Akbar Tandjung told the seminar that an extraordinary session of the MPR could only be called if the President had violated the Constitution or the Broad Outlines of State Policy.

Akbar said that if the Bruneigate and Buloggate allegations were proven, that should be enough to start an impeachment process.

On the claim that the President has lost his popular legitimacy, Akbar said: "There must be a strong reason why people do not want him any longer... replacing Gus Dur is possible. The mechanism for that is through an extraordinary session of the MPR." ((02/jun)