Tue, 15 Jan 2002

President skips opening of Matori's PKB congress

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Megawati Soekarnoputri has made a grievous mistake by allowing Akbar Tandjung, who is a suspect in a Rp 40 billion graft scandal, to meet privately with her, political observers say.

"By meeting with her, and publicizing it via the press, he is giving out a strong message that the President must uphold the informal coalition between her party PDI Perjuangan and Golkar, otherwise she will not be able to keep the presidential post until 2004," Hermawan Sulistyo told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

"And the message Akbar has given is clear: lay off and don't harass me, either personally or as House Speaker, and you will remain president until 2004. He is putting more pressure on Megawati ... which is why he purposely publicized the fact that he had met with Megawati," he said.

He urged Megawati not to yield to pressure and allow the corruption charges against Akbar to be dropped.

"The public will never forgive her for this, since they have already issued their verdict of guilty for Akbar. PDI Perjuangan itself will lose its credibility as a party that upholds the law," Hermawan said.

Dewi Fortuna Anwar, an advisor to former president B.J. Habibie, concurred, urging Megawati not to make a mistake by conceding to a political compromise with Akbar.

"The most important thing is that Megawati must not ask the Attorney General's Office to stop its investigation into Akbar. She should demonstrate her commitment to uphold the law," said Dewi on Monday.

Akbar, who is also chairman of the Golkar Party, confirmed on Sunday that he had dinner with President Megawati, also the chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), but denied the private meeting discussed his status as a suspect.

"I appealed to Ibu Megawati to maintain cooperation between PDI Perjuangan and Golkar," Akbar said.

According to Dewi, Megawati is in a very difficult position and therefore could not reject Akbar's request to meet her.

"At that meeting, Megawati might have told Akbar that they were still good friends although there is legal action being taken against him," Dewi said.

"The main point is, the investigation into Akbar must not be stopped."

M. Rifqie Muna of the Research Institute for Democracy and Peace (RIDeP) said on Monday that Megawati must keep the promise she recently made to the general public that she would ensure that corruptors are brought to court.

"She must show the people what she is made of. She must show courage. If she does not, people will lose all faith in her," Rifqie told the Post.

Meanwhile, five non-governmental organizations -- including Forum for Islamic Party Alliance (FAPPI), New Order Resilience Committee (KWOB), Marhaen People's Movement and Petisi 50 -- went to the House of Representatives (DPR) on Monday, demanding that Akbar resign or be dismissed from his post after being named a suspect in a financial scandal involving the State Logistics Agency (Bulog).

They were received by House Deputy Speaker Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno, deputy chair of House Commission I Astrid Sutanto, deputy chair of House Commission II Hamdan Zoelva and chair of House Commission II Amin Arjoso.

The NGOs also urged the legislators to set up a House committee to investigate Akbar's possible abuse of power during Habibie's tenure.

"The special committee is also important as a political control mechanism for the investigation carried out by the Attorney General's Office," the NGOs said.