Mon, 24 Feb 2003

President criticized for overnight stop in S'pore

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Megawati Soekarnoputri came under fire on Sunday for stopping over in Singapore on her way to Malaysia to attend a two-day summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

She and her entourage left Jakarta on Saturday for Singapore, where they overnighted for unknown reasons, and arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday at 8:30 a.m.

Critics lashed out at Megawati for not proceeding directly to Malaysia and instead making a brief visit to the neighboring city-state, a move which they said failed to reduce state fund expenditures for the trip.

Chairman of the Justice Party Hidayat Nurwahid, one of the critics, said the president and other Indonesian delegates should have flown directly to Kuala Lumpur for the NAM Summit on Monday.

"I have no idea why they had to stay the night in Singapore," he said, as quoted by Antara.

Nurwahid said arriving in Malaysia several days prior to the summit could have been used by Megawati to lobby other NAM member countries in an effort to solicit support for Indonesia's stance against the U.S. on the Iraq issue.

There was no official statement from Megawati's aides as to why the president made the brief visit to Singapore, which is generally known to be her favorite shopping destination.

She has also visited the neighboring city-state for occasional medical checkups.

Megawati's husband, Taufik Kiemas, flew to Malaysia to join his wife on Sunday, after he had led a street rally held earlier in the day by her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) to show support for the president.