MPR chairman calls for new leadership

He wants an alliance of Vice-President Megawati with Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung to take over President Abudurrahman’s failing government.

The leader of Indonesia’s highest legislative body said yesterday that the country was desperately in need of a new leadership, one that was based on an alliance between Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri and Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung as her running mate.

National Assembly (MPR) chairman Amien Rais said that both of them represented the biggest political parties in the legislature, giving them political legitimacy to take over the reigns of power from the beleaguered President Abdurrahman Wahid.

Ms Megawati heads the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) and Mr Akbar, Golkar.

In an interview with The Straits Times, the chairman said that Ms Megawati, the current Vice-President, and Mr Akbar would be able to arrest political instability and economic downturn in a country where President Abdurrahman “has lost the plot on how to govern”.

“Megawati and Akbar have a broad appeal among the legislators, unlike Gus Dur who appears to be losing his grip,” he said, using the President’s nickname.

He noted that it is not just PDI-P securing 33 per cent or Golkar 22 per cent of the votes in last year’s historic national election that gives Ms Megawati and Mr Akbar the “right of leadership”.

Both, he said, formed a “good and practical alliance” given that they represented respectively Java and non-Java, and broader cultural and ideological streams of both the nationalists and Islam.

The two also complemented one another in other ways.

Ms Megawati had broad appeal among the masses as a symbol of her late father and founding father of Indonesia, Mr Sukarno. On the other hand, having worked in previous administrations, Mr Akbar had practical experience in running thegovernment.

Mr Amien said that a Megawati-Akbar partnership would gain greater support in political circles in the months to come givenMr Abdurrahman’s failure to handle a host of crippling problems in the sprawling archipelago.

Describing the current government’s performance as “poor”, he said that the President had failed on his pledge to carry out reforms in the country. Corruption was still rampant, maybe even more so now, he said.

He added that the trial of former president Suharto and the subsequent quashing of the multi-million-dollar corruption charges were nothing but a “big farce” which dented further the credibility of the Indonesian legal system.

Another concern, he said, was that little was being done to resuscitate a battered economy that looked to have only marginally improved since the 1998 financial meltdown.

At the same time, separatist tensions were on the rise in Aceh and Irian Jaya, coupled with sporadic violence in different parts of the sprawling archipelago.

“We have reached a stage where Indonesians do not feel secure in their own country,” he said. “I perfectly understand the sentiments of foreign investors in not putting their money in Indonesia.”

He said that pressures could grow for an emergency MPR session if the President failed to respond to prevailing problems quickly.

It was likely that Mr Abdurrahman would cling on to power for another year at most, he added.

“Gus Dur is running out of time,” he said. “We cannot be held hostage to his dismal performance. Given that some of the problems he inherited have become worse during his tenure, it might be wise for him to just hand the baton to others.” Asked about his own political ambitions, Mr Amien appeared to backtrack slightly on his comments earlier this year that he had a 50-50 chance of becoming President if direct election was held in 2004.

“I want Megawati and Akbar to take charge for now. I will be patient and wait four more years to see whether it is feasible for me to make a bid for the top job.”

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