Fri, 05 Mar 1999

PKB, PPP warn against poll sabotage

SEMARANG (JP): Leading Muslim parties the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the United Development Party (PPP) warned on Thursday that certain groups intend to thwart the coming general election.

PKB chairman Matori Abdul Djalil and his PPP counterpart Hamzah Haz said on separate occasions that the sabotage attempts could be traced to those responsible for engineering the recent series of bloody clashes leading up to the elections.

"Those people instigated the violence because they fear that the elections will cost them the privileges they now enjoy. They are afraid they will have to relinquish their positions to cadres of winning parties," Matori told 5,000 activists and sympathizers who flocked to the party's branch office in Semarang regency.

Sporadic clashes in the past few months have compounded the troubles of economically stricken Indonesia. Many believe more conflicts are on the horizon as the elections draw near.

Matori, who was presiding over inauguration of the executives of PKB's Semarang office, said that groups defending the status quo worry in particular about PKB winning the elections.

PKB, established by the country's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, has been dubbed a favorite to win the most votes in the elections scheduled for June 7.

Matori told PKB activists to remain vigilant of administrative loopholes which could be exploited by the bureaucracy, which in the past were controlled by ruling party Golkar.

"Those who face problems while applying for identity cards please contact the nearest PKB offices. We can no longer tolerate such a practice," Matori told the crowd. The polls are restricted to Indonesian citizens of 17 years old or above.

Matori also encouraged Indonesian Chinese to join the party, saying that PKB will work toward national unity and harmony among the country's diverse ethnic groups. "There will be no shops looted or churches attacked if PKB wins," he said.

In Bandung, PPP chairman Hamzah Haz said the elections must go on, otherwise the nation would miss a chance to resolve the many problems it has endured for more than three decades.

"Economic and political injustice reigned supreme in the past 32 years. If we cannot hold the elections, we cannot escape the burdens either," Hamzah said at the opening of an executive meeting of PPP's West Java office on Thursday.

Hamzah warned PPP activists in the province to keep an eye on any attempts to provoke them.

"Don't ever let people who want to see the elections fail lure you. An aborted general election will be a loss to PPP," he said.

PPP has set its sights on gaining a minimum 22.5 percent of votes in the coming polls, equal to its result in the last elections in 1997.

"We will seek votes from members of some 70 parties which have been declared ineligible to contest the polls," said Hamzah, who is also the Minister of Investment. Only 48 of the 105 parties registered with the official verification team qualify for the first elections since the fall of former president Soeharto in May last year.

In Semarang, Golkar's Central Java office named party chairman Akbar Tandjung its first choice for presidency.

President B.J. Habibie was put in the third place behind Yogyakarta Sultan Hamengkubuwono X. Next were Minister of Defense and Security/Armed Forces Commander Gen. Wiranto and Minister of Justice Muladi.

The deputy secretary of the Golkar office, Sutoyo Abadi, told Antara on Thursday that the five candidates were selected in a vote during a plenary executive meeting on Feb. 25.

He said that of the 51 eligible voters, 14 were in favor of Akbar, who defeated the Yogyakarta sultan by four votes. The other nominees shared 13 votes among them. The remaining 14 voters abstained, opting to leave the decision to the senior executives, or supported any candidates but Habibie or otherwise just gave criteria for ideal candidates.

According to Sutoyo, those who preferred Akbar said it was logical for a party to nominate its own chairman for the presidency, while those who rejected Habibie said he was too West-oriented.

Meanwhile, deputy chairman of the Central Java office of the National Mandate Party (PAN), Alvin Lie, suspected that local civil servants had breached the new ruling which bans them from favoring a certain political party.

"We found a number of subdistrict heads in the eastern part of Semarang invited residents to their offices and gave them positions in Golkar branches set up in their respective jurisdictions," Alvin told a seminar on the role of the Armed Forces and a neutral bureaucracy in the 1999 elections.

Alvin said it was feared that the same practice occurred in other cities.

"The possibility is there, but I dare not to reveal my suspicions because of the lack of proof," he said.

Among those attending the seminar were Governor Mardiyanto and Central Java military commander Maj. Gen. Bibit Waluyo.

In response to Alvin's complaint, Mardiyanto said he would take stern measures against guilty subdistrict heads, but he demanded evidence.

In Jakarta, a member of the National Commission on Human Rights, Maj. Gen. (ret) Samsuddin, announced that he had joined the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI) Marhaenist Front led by Probosutedjo, a step-brother of former president Soeharto.

Samsuddin formerly was registered as a deputy chairman of PAN and had been approached by the Justice Party (PK).

"PAN appointed me an executive without my consent. That party and the Justice Party do not suit me," he said, as quoted by Antara. (43/har/amd)