Warning to Habibie : Act against Suharto

If the ex-President is not investigated, it will be difficult for Golkar to nominate him as its presidential candidate, says party chairman.

GOLKAR chairman Akbar Tandjung said yesterday that President B. J. Habibie must act against his predecessor Suharto and warned that if he did not, it would be difficult for the ruling party to nominate him as the presidential candidate in November.

Speaking to The Straits Times after attending a rally by thousands in Golkar’s heartland of support, he also disclosed that armed forces (Abri) chief General Wiranto could emerge as the compromise choice given that most of the leading parties backed him.

Mr Akbar said his party was “beginning to feel the public pressure” of choosing the German-trained engineer who appeared to be “less than firm” in acting against his long-time mentor for the excesses of the New Order regime.

“There should not be any cover ups,” he maintained. “Indonesians have the right to know if he is guilty.”

He said he and several other party elders had advised the President the night he was nominated earlier this month to crack the whip on Mr Suharto.

Despite that, there was little sign much was being done.

He noted that Mr Suharto’s letter to the Attorney General’s Office to investigate allegations made by Time magazine of a US$9-billion (S$15.5-billion) transfer from Switzerland to Austria was “a lame effort”.

He suggested instead that the government set up an independent commission to investigate allegations that he had stashed funds abroad.

At the same time, he wanted the former leader to be put under house arrest.

Said Mr Akbar: “People are not convinced that Pak Habibie is doing enough to punish Suharto.

“If he continues with this stance, it will be very difficult for Golkar to support him because increasingly, we will continue to be seen as a pro-status quo party.

“Increasingly, Dr Habibie will also become a liability to us. We will have no choice but to go for someone else.”

Already, obstacles are emerging.

“He pointed to two separate, but related, alliances forged between opposition parties in recent weeks.

“The first was between the Indonesian Democratic Party-Perjuangan (PDI-Struggle), the Nation Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN).

The other involved PAN, the United Development Party (PPP) and the Justice Party.

He conceded that both these alliances would be held together by the glue of a “common enemy” which was Mr Suharto and by extension Golkar if the ruling party continued to “cling to the past”.

“The solution is simple,” he said. “Take him out of the equation.”

He said that if there was a deadlock in the search for a presidential candidate, Golkar, PDI-Struggle and PKB would go for Gen Wiranto.

Indeed, sources in Jakarta told The Straits Times that the leading opposition parties, with the exception of PAN, had already agreed on the Javanese general in the event of a political stalemate.

If Mr Akbar appeared somewhat scathing in his President’s policy towards Mr Suharto, in his rally here, he was anything but.

Addressing more than 5,000 flag-waving supporters in a province where Dr Habibie was born, he said the incumbent was the only choice for Golkar.

A sea of yellow flags and posters with the President’s picture were waved frantically in a conference hall which reverberated with songs and chants for Dr Habibie.

The scene was similar outside as thousands of other Habibie die-hards, many university students, wearing tee-shirts which read “Habibie is my idol” grouped around huge audio speakers to listen to Mr Akbar’s speech.

Said 50-year-old Golkar cadre Fachruddin: “We don’t need to pay anyone to attend our rallies.

“It is instinctive. Pak Habibie is a son of the Sulawesi soil. We hope he remains President for life.”

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