Thu, 04 Mar 1999

Two parties urge Habibie to resign

JAKARTA (JP): The National Awakening Party (PKB) and the Justice and Unity Party (PKP) urged on Wednesday that President B.J. Habibie step down for his failure to curb violence, citing the continuing Maluku unrest, in which 159 people have been killed since January.

Chairman of PKB, Matori Abdul Djalil, said Habibie's Cabinet should also be dissolved for its failure to cope with instability, given the widespread unrest in several parts of the country.

"It is better for Habibie to return the mandate he received from the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) and resign immediately. (This will) allow the MPR to appoint a new transitional government to complete the national agenda -- the June polls and MPR's General Session in November," Matori said on Wednesday at a meeting in which he divulged results of the party's two-day congress which ended Tuesday.

Matori said the party was deeply concerned that a solution had yet to be found to check the continuing violence.

Matori said that his party was "bewildered" by the Armed Forces' (ABRI) failure to quell continuing unrest in Ambon, the capital of Maluku.

ABRI had failed to arrest the masterminds of the conflict and was yet to conduct a thorough investigation into the unrest, he said.

"Gen. Wiranto (Minister of Defense and Security/Armed Forces Commander) should be held responsible for defense and security everywhere, including riots and social conflicts," he said.

Deputy chairman of PKP, Tatto S. Pradjamanggala, said that since Habibie's presidency, "riots have continued and the nation is overwhelmed by social, political and economic problems".

"This means there is no other alternative for Habibie than to stand down," he said.

He added that his party would hold its first congress from March 5 to March 7 to discuss preparations for the general election.

"The congress is expected to finalize the party's short-term program and design strategies to contest the election, defuse the crisis and redevelop the national economy.

"We will also discuss the best strategy to communicate the party's program during the campaign and to select candidates for the legislature."

Tatto dismissed suggestions of a possible coalition with the ruling Golkar party, saying they had differences in political vision and programs.

Several senior former Golkar members were among those who founded the Justice and Unity Party.

However in Jayapura, the capital of Irian Jaya, the Golkar provincial branch said it had nominated Habibie and Akbar Tandjung for President and Vice President respectively.

Provincial Golkar chairman, Nataniel Kaiway, also the council chairman, had earlier praised Habibie for his response to aspirations of independence, conveyed to him last month by a delegation from Irian Jaya.

Other party activities on Wednesday included that of the Cilacap, Central Java branch of the National Mandate Party. The party protested the regional administration's policy of hiking costs to process identity cards (IDs) by 300 percent, from Rp 1,500 to Rp 5,000.

"In these hard times, the administration should not make life harder by hiking ID costs," the party's regional chairman Slamet Efendi said.

He charged that the policy was "political", and was designed to prevent people from voting in the upcoming polls because they lacked IDs.

"The party which has this interest is the one who is most hated by the public," he said, adding that ID cards should be issued for free.

Administration spokesman Suprihono told The Jakarta Post that the hike was a result of a 300 percent jump in costs involved in laminating the cards. The increase came into effect last week.

Chairman of PAN, Amien Rais, also inaugurated the party branches of Kudus, Pati, Jepara, Rembang and Blora regencies in Central Java, in a ceremony in Kudus.

In Semarang, rector of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Ichlasul Amal, welcomed an anticipated contingent of election observers from several countries, to be led by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter.

The arrival of foreign observers would help the election process and, if dishonest practices were observed, than statements with international impact could be made, Ichlasul, a political lecturer, said. (rms/45/34/har)