Military won’t side with Golkar at elections

ARMED FORCES’ POSITION

Indonesia’s powerful armed forces (Abri) yesterday said that it would not take sides with Golkar in the general election and give “special treatment” to the political party it has supported subtly for the last three decades.

“Abri will stand above all the political parties and not take sides,” he told a press conference. “We still maintain a historical link with Golkar but that is it. Golkar is no different from the other political parties.”

The military established Golkar in 1964 to counter the communists but it has refrained from active involvement in its day-to-day affairs or from campaigning on its behalf.

Analysts have long believed that Abri personnel, while not being allowed to vote in elections, have been used in the past to help Golkar improve its position at the polls.

Public demonstration for backing the party was most conspicuous in recent years, particularly in 1996 when then army chief Hartono donned Golkar’s yellow jacket and remarked that every Abri personnel was a Golkar cadre.

Responding to suggestions that Abri was still backing Golkar, Gen Wiranto said that the military would remain neutral and “keep an equal distance between all parties”.

He acknowledged that Golkar faced a number of difficulties but declined to elaborate.

Reports here said that the party was facing “disintegration” especially after the Musyawarah Kekeluargaan Gotong Royong (Conference for Family Values and Mutual Self Help), one of three major affiliates of Golkar, broke ranks and set up its own party last month.

Golkar’s business wing, Kosgoro, has also indicated that it wants to be independent.

Gen Wiranto made no mention of the upcoming Golkar congress to elect a new chairman.

The party is scheduled to open its congress on July 9 at which former President Suharto is expected to defend his record.

Last week, Abri’s socio-political chief, Lt-General Bambang Yudhoyono, dismissed rumours that the military was involved in setting up the mechanisms and agenda for the congress.

“Abri will let Golkar leaders settle their differences,” he said. “Abri wants Golkar to be independent and to fight its own political battles in the future.”

The party’s central executive board has split into two camps in the run-up to this congress. One of the camps includes two of Mr Suharto’s children – Mrs Siti Hardijanti Rukmana and Mr Bambang Trihatmodjo.

During the news conference, Gen Wiranto also called on foreign investors who had fled the nation or delayed investment to return to Indonesia, saying that the country was now safe after recent political instability.

“They are doubtful because they think, is it safe or not?” he said.

“Please, we have already shown the ambassadors of the G-7 and ambassadors of Asean to see directly the reality of the situation in the field,” he said, referring to recent tours to the provinces with President B. J. Habibie.

“Not only in Jakarta but recently we went to Malang and Bali and saw the security situation is already good for the investment world,” he said.

“I hope that the investment world, with increasingly good stability, will come back without doubt and invest in businesses in Indonesia,” he said.

“This guarantee is given by the security forces. Abri will guard stability optimally,” he said.

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