Wed, 10 Aug 1994

Proposal on PPP debate rejected

JAKARTA (JP): Ismail Hasan Metareum, the incumbent chairman of the United Development Party (PPP) and the leading candidate for the leadership election later this month, yesterday rejected calls by his rivals for a public debate ahead of the election.

Ismail Hasan argued that such debates were "unusual" and had not been part of the party's tradition.

"Do you think we are roosters which can be set against each other for the public to see?" he told journalists when attending a seminar on the PPP future.

He said he feared that the candidates would abuse the forum to slander each other instead of presenting their views in a more productive fashion.

The suggestions for PPP chairmanship aspirants to have a public, televised debate on the party's program came amid the bitter rivalry between the various contenders.

The candidates have been under intense scrutiny for their obvious efforts to obtain endorsements from government and military officials instead of showing their independence.

Rudini, a former home affairs minister and now a political observer, for example, has ridiculed PPP leaders' jostling to meet with President Soeharto for such endorsement.

None of the five PPP nominees who are contesting the election have revealed what they would do to develop the party if they were elected.

The precedent for apolitical public debate involving candidates was set by the minority Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) last year. But the then party chairman, Soerjadi, was absent.

Ismail Hasan said he saw no use in bringing the contestants together in a debate because local PPP leaders who have the right to vote already know they were going to choose. "Local leaders are not too stupid to make their choice," he said.


Ismail Hasan's political foes yesterday expressed their enthusiasm for the public debate proposal.

"The candidates should show their prospective voters what they can do for the party," said Yusuf Hasyim, a respected Moslem religious preacher who has expressed his interest in running for the party's chairmanship.

Yusuf said all the candidates should go to the debate well- prepared and not just read texts made by other people.

Hasyim, who heads the law-making body of PPP's largest faction Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), is an ardent critic of Ismail Hasan's leadership.

Similar enthusiasm was expressed by candidate Hamzah Haz. "It's a good idea," he said. "All candidates should have the guts to present their views in such a debate," he said.

Hamzah, a well-known economist and an outspoken legislator from the PP faction, is actively seeking support from NU leaders in the provinces for his candidacy.

The one-day seminar will feature Moslem scholars, including Ali Yafie, Suroso Iman Zadjuli and Syafi'i Ma'arif, and is aimed at defining strategies on how the Moslem based-party will be brought up to the upcoming congress.

Ma'arif said that to win more votes in the 1997 general election, PPP should offer concrete programs to help eradicate poverty, create job opportunities and improve education.

"Without initiating drastic measures to overcome such pressing problems, PPP will remain small," he said.

He said Moslem religious scholars should be involved in major activities. He said the religious leaders have been involved only in the five-yearly general election campaigns and in the party congress. (pan)