Golkar ‘still wants Suharto as President for 7th term’

GOLKAR chief Harmoko, brushing aside rumours of President Suharto’s health, has said that the ruling party will continue to back the long-serving Indonesian leader for another term in office.

“We will not be affected by such rumours because Golkar has decided on Suharto as the President for the 1998-2003 period,” he told reporters after attending a parliamentary meeting on Friday.

Analysts believed his comments put paid to any notion that Golkar was wavering in its support for Mr Suharto to stand for a record seventh term as President next year.

Mr Harmoko’s comments followed earlier pledges that Golkar would back the incumbent leader as he was still “wanted by our people” given that there was “no other figure”.

His latest remarks squashed suggestions that the ruling party was contemplating another candidate as its choice following widespread rumours that Mr Suharto was seriously ill or even dead.

News reports yesterday quoted Mr Harmoko as saying that the 76-year-old President was in good health.

“People should not be hysterical when they hear rumours. They should check and recheck the information,” he said.

Stressing that there was no cause for alarm in the President taking a rest following a 12-day state trip that took him to seven countries, he said: “It is just like common people who follow the advice of their doctor to take a rest. That’s all.

“You can see that he still takes on state duties during break time at his residence. He has even discussed the draft of the state budget with some ministers.”

Speculation about Mr Suharto’s health has persisted despite television and print footage of him smiling and chatting with a minister at his residence on Thursday.

His cancellation of plans to visit his wife’s grave in Solo, Central Java, yesterday fuelled further rumours about his health.

Flying time from Jakarta to Solo is barely 35 minutes. The view here is that the tradition-minded President would cancel a visit to his wife’s grave only in adverse situations.

Apart from this, the President also cancelled his plans to attend the Asean informal summit in Kuala Lumpur this week. Observers believed that only serious illness would prevent him from travelling to Kuala Lumpur.

State Secretary Moerdiono had announced four days ago that Mr Suharto was in good health and would go ahead with his visits to both Solo and Kuala Lumpur.

This has fuelled speculation that the President’s health had deteriorated considerably over the last three days, possibly due to a mild stroke.

There are also rumours circulating here of an impending military coup.

The Indonesian armed forces’ (Abri) intelligence chief, Major-General Zacky Anwar Makarim, yesterday lashed out at “groups with leftist leanings” for spreading such rumours.

“These are lies. They want to destabilise the economy and cause a crisis,” he told The Sunday Times.

“All this talk of a planned coup is nonsense because Abri is united in its support for the President.

“I can vouch for that because as head of military intelligence I know what’s going on.”

Abri chief Feisal Tanjung, meanwhile, warned against any disruptions during the meeting of the People’s Consultative
Assembly (MPR) next year.

He said that the military would not tolerate voting or walkouts during the election of the President and Vice-President as this was not in accordance with the Indonesian spirit of musyawarah mufakat or “reaching consensus through deliberation”.

The President and Vice-President are usually elected by acclamation by the MPR during a 10-day session in March once in every five years.

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