Mon, 08 Mar 1999

Try tipped for PKP presidential candidate: Edi

JAKARTA (JP): The Justice and Unity Party (PKP) may nominate former vice president Try Sutrisno as presidential candidate for the 1999/2004 period, chairman of the party, Edi Sudradjat, said on Saturday.

Edi was quick to add, however, that PKP had yet to reach an agreement on the issue, saying that the selection process of candidates was still underway.

"We have heard some aspirations to nominate a figure who is acceptable to all groups in the country," Edi said on the sidelines of a PKP national congress here. He was answering a question of whether PKP would name 63-year-old Try as its presidential candidate.

Try, who was vice president to Soeharto from 1993 to 1998, chairs the Armed Forces Veterans Association (PEPABRI) and is a supporter of PKP. Edi, a former minister of defense and security and a colleague of Try during their military career, is a member of PEPABRI.

A group of veterans failed in their attempt to suggest the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) factions renominate Try as vice president last year. Instead, the MPR unanimously named B.J. Habibie the sole candidate for the vice presidency. Habibie then took over from Soeharto, who resigned following relentless student rallies in May last year.

Edi said a presidential candidate would need support from other parties, not to mention the MPR which convenes in November to elect a president and a vice president.

"We expect to bring our own candidate to the MPR General Session, but if we fail to name him or her, we can just support other parties' candidates," Edi was quoted by Antara as saying.

The PKP congress discussed, among other things, the party's preparations for the elections, scheduled for June 7.

While most provincial offices expressed guarded optimism that PKP would finish among the top five in their respective regions, some reported violations committed by the bureaucracy.

"A subdistrict chief in Bandung told people who received funds under the social safety net program that the money came from Golkar," said West Java chief of PKP, Tjetje Padmadinata, himself a former Golkar legislator.

His North Sumatra counterpart, Ansyah Nasution, complained about a number of Cabinet ministers who allegedly traveled to the province but used their trip to campaign for a particular party. Most Cabinet ministers are Golkar members.

"They have misused state funds in the interest of their own party," Ansyah said.

A government regulation issued recently bans bureaucrats from holding executive posts in any political party.

U.S. trip

Meanwhile, the chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN), Amien Rais, left for the United States on Saturday afternoon. He is scheduled to talk with U.S. Vice President Al Gore about present conditions in Indonesia.

"I will suggest to Al Gore that the U.S. administration exert moral pressure on the Indonesian government to put an end to several riots that have claimed many lives and caused material losses," Rais said after inaugurating four PAN subbranches in Bekasi, West Java, earlier in the day.

He denied that he requested the U.S. intervene in Indonesia's internal affairs.

"It merely aims at preventing Indonesia from international isolation," he said. He will be in the U.S. until Thursday.

He said he would also attend a discussion organized by foreign diplomats and meet with senators, businesspeople and students during his American trip.

When asked about the government announcement that 48 parties were eligible to contest the polls, Amien said he feared it would trigger conflict among various party supporters.

But Amien insisted that the polls must go on, unless more violent conflicts broke out.

In Surabaya, East Java Governor Imam Utomo announced he would reject an invitation to attend any party function other than party anniversary celebrations.

"I will only attend a party anniversary celebration as a mere guest, without having to address the attendees," Imam said as quoted by Antara on Saturday. (amd)