Wed, 05 Apr 2000

TNI to study lifting ban on communism

JAKARTA (JP): The Indonesian Military (TNI) said on Monday that it would study President Abdurrahman Wahid's repeated calls for lifting the ban on communism.

"We will study the idea carefully and thoroughly so that we can give an opinion to the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR)," TNI Commander Adm. Widodo was quoted by Antara as saying.

Widodo would not comment further but said they were in the process of contemplating the idea.

TNI spokesman Air Rear Marshal Graito Usodo was quoted as saying that the military was still trying "to collect all files", including intelligence and historical ones, to be studied.

"We are still in the evaluation process of getting a comprehensive picture," Graito was quoted as saying.

Separately, Abdurrahman renewed his calls for the revocation of the 34-year-old ban on the principles of communism during his visit on Monday to residents of Boyolali, a Central Java village in Kedungombo.

The President said, however, that the revocation of the decree should first be discussed with the MPR due to the controversy surrounding the issue.

The Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) was the first to oppose Abdurrahman's call, saying the principles of communism should remain banned because it promotes atheism.

House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung expressed his regret on Monday over the President's calls, saying Abdurrahman was not in the right position to propose the idea.

"A president is a state official who receives mandates from the MPR and is obliged to carry them out. He or she does not have the power to revoke or ban MPR decrees," Akbar said.

He suggested that Abdurrahman, in his personal capacity, channel his proposal to political parties whom he trusts and leave them to fight for the proposal in the MPR.

Akbar reiterated his criticism against Abdurrahman, whom he said lacks a sense of urgency with his habit of issuing controversial political statements but failing to address the country's current economic problems.

In Makassar, South Sulawesi, some 1,500 students of Islamic junior high school staged a protest on Monday against the President's plan to lift the ban on communist teachings.

The group, led by their principle Abdul Hamid Syah, marched to the Council building, wearing their school uniforms and waving anticommunist banners.

"We will stage a school strike if the MPRS decree which ban communism is revoked," Abdul said, referring to a 1966 decree passed when the MPR was a provisional body. The session was held following an abortive coup blamed on the now defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) on Sept. 30. (27/edt/byg)