Mon, 06 Mar 2000

PKB to have non-Muslim officials: Matori

KUTA, Bali (JP): National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Matori Abdul Djalil stressed on Saturday his party's readiness to accept non-Muslims as senior officials after the party's congress in July.

"PKB's determination to be the locomotive of democracy in this country brings about a consequence that the party should democratize itself first," Matori said here on Saturday at a seminar on the PKB youth movement (Garda Bangsa).

"The party must become an open party, whose next leadership must be from various ethic and religious backgrounds," he added.

"This means that the key positions in the next PKB leadership will be filled not only by Muslim cadres, but also Christian, Hindu, Budha and even Confucian cadres. There will be no limitation on the posts to be filled by non-Muslims, meaning that non-Muslim members are welcome at the branches or central board," he added.

Also present at the seminar were Army Chief of Territorial Affairs Lt. Gen. Agus Widjojo and State Minister of Maritime Exploration Sarwono Kusumaatmadja.

Despite its strong Islamic background since its foundation in 1999, the party has declared itself an open party.

"Now is the time to physically open up," Matori remarked.

He said exclusivism among political parties would not work in a democratic era. "Exclusivism would only hamper the party itself."

Matori said he was sure the new policy would not lead traditional Muslim supporters of the party to abandon it.

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) -- the largest traditional Muslim organization, which formed the backbone of PKB's support -- has been at the forefront of the democratization process for 15 years, Matori said.

"In NU, the main base of PKB traditional Muslim supporters, the development of democratic values in Islam has long been introduced. In principle, the ulemas and NU supporters are ready to accept the idea."

Matori said PKB had intensively been "approaching" non-Muslim figures such as Sarwono Kusumaatmadja and businessman Sofyan Wanandi.

When asked to comment on some groups who wanted to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia, Matori said those people were fighting against history.

"Those who are against history will be crushed.

"Such ideas are outdated. The idea of a military state is also outdated. Now we are in a republic and a democratic era," he said. (zen/sur)