Sat, 04 Jun 1994

PPP politicians cool on inter-faction talks

JAKARTA (JP): Politicians of the Moslem-backed United Development Party (PPP) have rejected proposals for a meeting between the various factions to put an end to internal bickering in the run-up to the party's August leadership election.

Mardinsyah and Sofyan Usman said on Thursday such talks would only worsen the friction because the conflicting sides would fight for their factions instead of for the good of PPP.

Rivalries involving politicians from the four factions that make up the PPP -- Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muslimin Indonesia (MI), Syarikat Islam and PERTI -- are mounting as the party braces for its five yearly congress.

The fiercest competition is between NU, which claims the most members, and MI, which has always dominated the party's leadership board.

In the latest development, scholars and politicians from the NU plan to gather in the Central Java town of Rembang later this month to discuss their strategy for the PPP congress.

This plan has sparked a wave of controversy because critics see it as inconsistent with NU's stated policy of avoiding formal politics to pursue its social and education missions.

Mardinsyah, a deputy chairman of PPP, said that PPP members should concentrate on finding ways to make the August congress a success rather than draw attention to the embarrassing conflict. "After the (four) parties merged, it's the individual members and not the factions that counts," he said.

Sofyan, chief of the PPP department overseeing recruitment of cadres, says the inter-faction talks as proposed by some party members were "irrelevant" and would represent a step backwards.

"The merger has long been over and it would be a setback for us to speak in terms of factions," he said.

PPP chairman Ismail Hasan Metareum, who is critical of party members more loyal to their former political parties than to PPP, says he welcomes any meetings aimed at contributing to the upcoming congress.

"I have no reason to say no as long as they seek to make the congress a success," he said Thursday.

On another occasion Thursday, Ismail Hasan declined to comment on whether he sought President Soeharto's blessing to run for another term when he met with the head of state last week.

Some observers believe that judging from his "conservative" leadership style,Ismail Hasan may retain the government's support, although more progressive PPP politicians want to see him step down. (pan)