Tue, 30 Aug 1994

Profiles of leading candidates for PPP chairman

JAKARTA (JP): With the opening of the congress of the United Development Party (PPP) yesterday, six men have been named as possible candidates for the party's chairmanship.

The following is a brief synopsis of each candidate.

1. Ismail Hasan Metareum: The incumbent chairman became the butt of ridicule several months ago when he made seemingly contradictory appeals to the government: that it take its hands off the party, and that it finance the congress.

Ismail Hasan told Minister/State Secretary Moerdiono that PPP could come up with only Rp 100 million out of the Rp 1.5 billion needed to hold the five-yearly event.

The ensuing public reaction was not kind. Several analysts used the incident to hammer home their conviction about the party's poor standing. "How do you expect to become an independent party if you have to beg for money?" was the sentiment expressed by them.

Ismail Hasan told the Republika daily he believed the wide exposure of the party's deficit was intended to smear his reputation and prevent him from seeking another term.

However, speaking during a television interview about a younger PPP politician who had been attacking him, calmly said, "He's not my enemy. He's my younger brother, I helped recruit him into the party."

This calmness has been the hallmark of Ismail Hasan, but it has also been described by his opponents as "meekness". Ismail Hasan however insisted that his low-profile leadership was necessary to "improve" the image of the party which had been notorious for its bickering.

Born 65 years ago in Sigli, Aceh, Ismail Hasan began his political career with the Pelajar Islam Indonesia (Moslem Students) organization when he was in his 20s. In 1957 he became chairman of the influential Association of Moslem Students (HMI) and later joined the Muslimin Indonesia (MI).

He has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1971, first representing Muslimin Indonesia and later the PPP, following MI's merger with other Islamic parties to form the PPP in 1973. He became the House's deputy speaker in 1992.

A father of five who is popularly called Buya (father), Ismail Hasan was also a staff lecturer, and once the dean, of the law school at Tarumanagara University.

2. M. Cholil Badawi: Until early last week, this vice chairman of the Supreme Advisory Board had never been mentioned as possible candidate. Some reporters were overheard saying, "Cholil who?" when his name began circulating.

The 62-year-old, bespectacled Cholil, who is also the current vice chairman of the PPP faction at the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), is considered the "dark horse" of the race.

He is seen as an alternative for those who can't stand the outspoken Sri Bintang Pamungkas and consider Ismail Hasan much too meek to lead the party again.

Cholil joined the Muslimin Indonesia Party 23 years ago, two years before it joined up with the PPP. He said he still believes that the most important task of a political party is to serve as a bridge between the people and the those in power.

3. Hamzah Haz: The chairman of the PPP faction at the House of Representatives (DPR), is considered one of the PPP's intellectuals. After spending years on the House's Commission for State Budgets, he is well-versed in economic affairs and his opinions are much sought after by reporters.

Several months prior to the congress, speculation about him entering the race was rampant, especially after he organized several meetings of the kyai (Moslem leaders and scholars) from the influential Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) faction.

Hamzah, however, has never expressed his wish to be chosen. When pressed for comments on his "possible candidacy" by NU, Hamzah only smiled and replied noncommittally, "Let's leave it to congress and the kyais".

When the kyais eventually favored Matori Abdul Djalil, another NU figure, over him, Hamzah just smiled and said he had never planned to run in the first place.

Born in 1940 in West Kalimantan, Hamzah said he never had any goals but to do his best. "Whatever happens to me, it's the best coming from Allah," he said.

4. Matori Abdul Djalil: During the meeting of some 80 kyais from NU in June in Rembang, Central Java, this outgoing secretary general of PPP became the "star" of the event. With several supporters in tow, the presence of this heavyset man, as he entered the meeting room, was imposing.

And then he knelt and kissed the hands of several of the senior kyais.

"He's our man," said one younger kyais to a reporter.

Matori never formally announced his intention to run but kept on saying he would do whatever the kyais wanted him to do. "To listen is to obey," he said, quoting a Koranic verse.

Born 52 years ago in Sraten, a small village in Central Java, Matori began his political career in several Moslem students' organizations. During the political upheavals in 1965, he was chairman of the Kesatuan Aksi Mahasiswa Indonesia (the Indonesian Students' Action Group) which took to the streets to demonstrate against then president Sukarno.

He built his career in PPP from what he called "the lowest rung of party leadership."

5. Sri Bintang Pamungkas: Bintang, who holds a doctoral degree in economics from the University of Iowa, has spent the last several years airing his view of democratization in the country. With his sharp criticism against the establishment and government officials, he quickly became an idol for many young people.

Born in 1945 in Tulung Agung, East Java, Bintang is a member of the expert board of the influential Association of Indonesian Moslem Intellectuals (ICMI).

He was recruited by PPP and posted to the House two years ago and has since become known as a "vocal" or outspoken legislator.

Despite his relative lack of political experience, Bintang vowed to lead PPP and turn it into a more "Islamist" party.

6. H.M. Dault: Dault is until now a virtual unknown in PPP circles. This latecomer was a former prosecutor in the Attorney General's office who "lost" his job after he boldly declared during the 1977 general elections that he chose PPP for his political aspirations. Then, and even now, the tacit understanding is that every civil servant must choose the ruling Golkar functional group.

Dault later established a law firm and made a name for himself when he joined a team of lawyers defending H.M. Sanusi, a former minister who was accused of involvement in a 1984 bombing of two bank offices. His activities in PPP were not widely known, but he suddenly became an alternative in the battle for the PPP's top post, with nominations from the Muslimin Indonesia faction. (swe)