Fri, 14 Jan 2000

Top officials hail concern over Maluku

JAKARTA (JP): Two top officials on Thursday pointed to calls for a jihad as a message to the government to take concrete action to stop the bloodshed in Maluku.

House of Representatives Speaker Akbar Tandjung and People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais countered President Abdurrahman Wahid's statement that the calls, which peaked during a rally at National Monument (Monas) on the eve of Idul Fitri last Friday, were an attempt to force him to resign.

"We do not see it like that. I guess they issued a warning to the government," Akbar, who recently returned from an Idul Fitri holiday in Surakarta, Central Java, said.

Thousands of Muslims gathered last Friday to demanded the President and Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri resign if they were unable to resolve the year-long conflict in Maluku. They also called for a jihad against those who had killed Muslims in the province.

Akbar said in this new era of democracy it was impossible for a group to undertake an effort to topple a legitimate government.

"In my capacity as Golkar Party chairman, I always ask all figures and members in the party to remain critical of the government, but this stance cannot be seen as an attempt to oust the government," he said.

Speaking to journalists after receiving United States Ambassador Robert Gilbard, Amien dismissed Abdurrahman's allegation that there was an effort under way to force him out of office, saying demands for the government to take quick action in Maluku reflected the people's awareness of the situation in the province.

"Rather than being misunderstood, the rally should be heeded with wisdom and maturity," Amien, who spoke during the rally, said. He added that he would visit Abdurrahman to warn him of attempts by certain groups "to lock our horns".

Akbar said that during the gathering Muslims expressed their solidarity with their fellow Muslims in Maluku and their deep concern over their suffering.

"Through the rally the Muslims demanded the government be more responsive to the violence and more proactive in stopping the mayhem," he said.

Asked about the proposal to lodge a motion of no-confidence against the government, Akbar said the 1945 Constitution did not recognize this process.

"The House is only allowed to call a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly to ask for the president's accountability if he or she is considered to have violated the Constitution or the state policy guidelines," he said.

He said that in regards to its efforts to resolve the sectarian conflict in Maluku, the government could not be seen as violating the Constitution.

"The government has just failed to make a maximum effort to handle (the conflict)," Akbar said.

Amien said the government must take concrete action to stop the violence if it did not want Muslims to travel to Maluku and North Maluku to stage a jihad.

"The government should immediately stop the bloodshed and provide protection, including humanitarian aid, to all refugees, regardless of their religion," he said.

He said the government should invite all sides involved in the conflict to a dialog to seek a peaceful solution to the violence.

"The government should take strict action against anyone violating the law and those masterminding the violence," he added.

In a related development, hundreds of Muslim youths from the Communications Forum for North Maluku People rallied in the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar on Thursday, calling on local Muslims to join a planned jihad in Maluku.

They marched along the streets and through mosques and campuses, carrying banners calling for a holy war in Maluku and North Maluku.

"We ask all Muslims to participate in this war," Sukarno Husain, the group's coordinator, said.

Sukarno said the group had opened booths in several locations throughout the city for Muslims who wished to join a jihad in Maluku.

"We're also collecting donations for victims of the violence," he said. (27/edt/rms)