Sat, 10 Jul 2004

Sutiyoso vies for badminton body chairmanship

Eva C. Komandjaja, Jakarta

Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso currently chairs the Indonesian Basketball Association (Perbasi). However, he seems to have been tempted to manage another sports organization that he thinks might give him more prestige.

After the failure of his bid for the soccer chairmanship in 2002, the 59-year-old retired Army general is now vying for a shot at the crisis-ridden national badminton organization.

Sutiyoso says that in running for office at the Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI) he has simply been driven by the national interest, and signals he will try to become the savior.

"The job (as PBSI chairman) is a matter of national interest. We failed to retain the Thomas Cup, (and to retrieve) the Uber and Sudirman Cup this year," Sutiyoso said after a meeting with his Perbasi aides on Friday.

The Indonesian men's badminton team was stopped by Denmark in the semifinals in the Thomas Cup, which they had held five consecutive times, here in May, while their female compatriots exited in the quarterfinals of the Uber Cup, which they last won in 1996.

The PBSI leadership will be up for grabs after incumbent chairman Chairul Tanjung acceded to demands for his resignation, having been deemed incompetent for the job.

The PBSI has been pushed by the majority of its 32 provincial branches into arranging an extraordinary meeting, planned for July 17 in Jakarta.

The meeting is expected to select a replacement.

Besides Sutiyoso, former vice president of the International Badminton Federation (IBF) Justian Suhandinata and East Java branch chairman Jacob Rusdiyanto are rumored to be running for the post.

The head of the PBSI working group that has been assigned to evaluate candidates, Koesdarto Pramono, said they would announce the names of candidates in the next two or three days.

According to Jakarta branch chairman Icuk Sugiarto, several branches have signaled they will give support to Sutiyoso, who on Friday tried to position himself as the last choice.

"I have asked them (provincial branches) to nominate people who have a better capability than I. I would step in only as the last choice," he said.

Perbasi vice chairman Erick Tohir said that Perbasi could not do anything to prevent its chairman from running for the PBSI.

"Of course we understand if Pak Sutiyoso wants to be PBSI chairman.

"It's not that being PBSI chairman has more prestige than the Perbasi chairman; it's a matter of wishing to restore national pride in badminton, especially after we failed to retain the Thomas Cup this year," Erick said.

He added that Sutiyoso would have to abandon his Perbasi post if he were elected PBSI chairman.

After its dismal Thomas Cup performance, Indonesia is now looking ahead to the Olympics, at which the badminton team will have an opportunity to redeem itself.

Badminton is the only sport ever to earn Indonesia Olympic gold medals. That is a far cry from Indonesian basketball, which has been struggling, even at the Southeast Asian level.