Jakarta hopefuls to speak here

Indonesia’s presidential campaign starts in Singapore next week.

Key contenders will be in the Republic to outline their competing visions, ahead of the first-ever direct presidential polls on July 5.

Their platform: A series of public seminars organised by the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS) and The Straits Times.

Speakers include two retired generals who are front-runners in the race – Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Mr Wiranto.

Two major political brokers, Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung and former president Abdurrahman Wahid, the influential elder of the 40-million-strong Nadhlatul Ulama (NU), will also give their views.

Explaining the aim of the talks, IDSS’ Indonesia expert Leonard Sebastian said: ‘Indonesia’s geopolitical significance to Singapore cannot be underestimated. It is a country undergoing a complex and unpredictable transition.

‘Whatever happens to our southern neighbour has a direct bearing on us. It is in our interests to understand developments in Indonesia first hand from leading politicians there.’

Mr Akbar will kick off the series on Monday by giving an overview of Golkar’s performance in the recent parliamentary election and its preparations for the presidential poll.

Last month, he lost to former military commander Wiranto as Golkar’s candidate but retains considerable influence as party chairman.

Mr Wiranto will speak on Friday. His speech, his aides said, would aim to assure the Singapore political elite and foreign investors that his leadership would bring political stability to Indonesia.

His main rival is Mr Bambang, who will speak on Wednesday. Only a few months ago, he trailed incumbent Megawati Sukarnoputri in the popularity stakes. But the latest survey by the Washington-based International Foundation for Electoral Systems shows him in lead position.

His popularity within the NU is also high. But where the NU vote goes eventually will depend on Mr Abdurrahman, who wields considerable influence in Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation.

Mr Abdurrahman will deliver his public lecture in Singapore on June 3, two days after the presidential campaigning officially gets under way in Indonesia.

Straits Times editor Han Fook Kwang noted: ‘We’re very happy to be co-organising this because it gives Singaporeans an opportunity to hear them in person and to get to know their views at a very important juncture in Indonesian politics.

‘It’s part of our effort to make The Straits Times’ coverage of Indonesia one of the most informed in the world.’

Those interested in attending any of the seminars may contact Ms Wati of IDSS on 6790-6982 or e-mail iskabdullah@ntu.edu.sg

Attendance is by invitation only.

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