Indonesian legislators to Ghafar : Apologise


Warning that relations with Malaysia could be damaged, Indonesian lawmakers call on Ghafar to say sorry for slamming the local media.

SEVERAL Indonesian legislators, warning that relations with Malaysia could be damaged, called on veteran Umno politician Tun Ghafar Baba to apologise for slamming the local media for championing detained former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Parliamentarian Sofyan Lubis, who also heads the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI), said that Tun Ghafar should have displayed greater understanding of the Indonesian press before attacking it.

“What’s on the news was not Anwar as an individual, but democracy that is growing recently, including in Malaysia,” news reports quoted him as saying yesterday.

He said what caused greater consternation here was Tun Ghafar’s comments that Indonesia could have Anwar, now being detained on charges of corruption and sodomy, because it seemed receptive to homosexuals.

“This is definitely not true,” said Mr Lubis.

“He should retract that statement and apologise to the Indonesian press,” he added.

Tun Ghafar attacked the local press for its coverage of Anwar when he was here over the weekend.

Another legislator, Farida Syamsi Chadaria, said that his comments were ill-conceived and could impair ties between Indonesia and Malaysia, which until now had been good.

Parliamentarian Ais Anantama Said called on the government to declare Tun Ghafar persona non grata in Indonesia.

Information Minister Yunus Yosfiah said that Tun Ghafar’s remarks showed how both countries viewed a free press.

He assured reporters that the government would not “control” news coverage of events in Malaysia but pointed out that inaccurate reporting “could affect bilateral ties”.

An Indonesian intelligence source who has been following developments in Malaysia told The Straits Times that contrary to Tun Ghafar’s comments that he had come to Jakarta as his own man, the former Deputy Prime Minister was here on Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s behalf.

“His main aim was to test the waters and try to neutralise the press in their coverage,” he said.

He added: “He made a mess of things and we do not think Dr Mahathir will be happy with him. He is lucky we did not deport him.”

In a hard-hitting editorial, the English-language daily The Indonesian Observer said: “We cannot remember a time that a foreigner who has said he came here in a private capacity had the temerity to say insulting things to our face.

“We must therefore have patience with the likes of Mr Baba who comes from a country which, despite its modern appearance, is actually a feudal society, which received its independence on a golden platter.

“This puts us in a different category from Malaysia because we are revolutionaries who fought and died to achieve our independence.

“It is now the beginning of the end for feudalistic establishments which will be swept away by the new wave of reform initiated by Anwar Ibrahim.”

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