Mon, 07 Aug 2000

PKB pledges to fight against special session

JAKARTA (JP): The National Awakening Party (PKB) pledged it would employ any and every possible measure to ensure the People's Consultative Assembly's Annual Session, which begins on Monday, does not evolve into a special session which could impeach President Abdurrahman Wahid.

"We will deploy our power and use all our rights at the Assembly to avoid a special session," Yusuf Muhammad, chairman of the PKB faction at the Assembly, said here on Sunday evening.

He maintained that in accordance with the 1999 State Policy Guidelines, the Assembly's Annual Session, the first in history, was designed to evaluate the government's progress and propose the necessary corrections to improve its performance.

"The state policy guidelines also recommend the President make adjustments in the first year of his term in office as the situation demands in order to carry out the economic development program, develop democracy and uphold the supremacy of law and human rights," he said.

Yusuf appealed to all factions to stay within the corridors of the Constitution. "Factions should not focus on their own interests but on what the nation needs to defuse the prolonged crises, enforce the law, create a stable political situation and improve the people's social welfare."

Yusuf, who also is a senior Muslim cleric, asserted his faction, which holds 57 of the 700 Assembly seats, would reject any draft decree which would allow the Assembly to call for a special session.

"Such a draft decree is not needed since the Assembly already has a decree on the mechanisms of a special session," he said, referring to the 1978 decree that allows the House of Representative to propose the Assembly hold a special session.

A number of members of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) faction have reportedly threatened to walk out of the Annual Session if it becomes a special session.

"We will likely walk out if other factions force their way to hold a special session," Sophan Sophiaan, chairman of the PDI Perjuangan faction, said.

Abdurrahman's administration has come under increasing fire in the past few months, with several legislators hinting of the possibility of holding a special session which would open the possibility of impeaching the President.

Ade Khomaruddin of the Golkar Party faction said his faction would be very critical in evaluating the President's progress report, however he was vague on whether they would support a proposal for a special session.

"To our faction, the grade for the President's performance is a five because he and his administration have made no progress in many fields, including economic development and law enforcement," he said here on Sunday.

Asked whether his faction would support a motion to impeach the President, he replied: "Our faction will consistently stick to the Constitution and the law that states the Annual Session is held to evaluate the government's performance."

One debate which already was brewing on Sunday was whether any amendments would be necessary to Article 29 of the Constitution on religion.

Jacob Tobing of the PDI Perjuangan faction and Akbar Tandjung of the Golkar faction separately said on Sunday they were opposed to any changes to the article.

Both said their factions would fight to ensure other factions in the Assembly recognized that the presence of different religions and ethnic groups was a fact that cemented the pluralist nation.

Several minority factions have proposed inserting a clause in the article requiring Muslims to adhere to Islamic law, or syariah.

Yusuf said the PKB faction also opposed amending the article because it wished to maintain the nation's heterogeneity. "PKB as a religious, nationalist party will reject the insertion ... it would certainly jeopardize national unity." (rms)