INDONESIA: Megawati betrayal may split PDIP

July 24, 2002


JAKARTA — President Megawati Sukarnoputri's support within her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) is falling as she increasingly associates with the political figures from the era of the Suharto dictatorship.

Almost every day in Jakarta's mass circulation tabloids, which are read by the urban masses, PDIP dissidents criticise Megawati for her support for retired general Sutiyoso's candidacy for governor of Jakarta. Sutiyoso was the military commander of Jakarta at the time of the bloody 1996 attack on the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI).

The 1996 attack followed the refusal of pro-Megawati PDI members to surrender the building to a new leadership backed by the Suharto dictatorship. Many Megawati supporters were killed and injured. While the attackers posed as PDI members, it is widely accepted that the assault was organised with the support of the military. Sutiyoso is held responsible by many PDIP supporters for the deaths that resulted.

Sutiyoso, who is just finishing his first term as governor, has also been under constant criticism for the policies he has implemented. Thousands of Trishaw drivers have protested against being driven out of more and more sections of Jakarta. He was also criticised for his administration's inadequate response to devastating floods in Jakarta earlier this year.

Sutiyoso has been accused of building a mansion on the slope of a mountain in contravention of municipal regulations, which were issued to protect the natural water channels that carry water away from Jakarta. Many similar mansions on the mountains that surround the city were torn down after the floods when it was revealed that their construction was a cause of the disaster.

Megawati's decision to support Sutiyoso has been condemned by some PDIP members of parliament, as well as several groups based in the PDIP rank-and-file.

At the forefront have been survivors of the 1996 attack who are conducting a campaign to have Sutiyoso and others charged with complicity in the deaths and injuries. The only people to be imprisoned in connection with the attack were the survivors themselves, who were released after Suharto was forced to resign in 1997.

A prominent figure in the Jakarta branch of the PDIP, Tarmidi, has defied Megawati and registered as a candidate in the election. The mass circulation tabloid Rakyat Merdeka has also published articles by PDIP MPs who have attacked Megawati's support for Sutiyoso and exposed the level of privilege that PDIP MPs enjoy. Rakyat Merdeka has reported that some MPs are planning to split away and establish a PDIP Revolusioner.

The front-page reports of Megawati's betrayal of the PDIP membership are consolidating the belief that Megawati is aligning herself with Suharto's Golkar party and the military in preparation for the 2004 parliamentary elections. The PDIP leadership's refusal to support a parliamentary inquiry into corruption allegations against Golkar has heightened this impression.

The mass circulation tabloids' have also reported that Megawati has backed the harsh penalties dished out to activists who stamped on pictures of Megawati and vice-president Hamzah Haz at a protest. Four activists have been arrested and the police are seeking to arrest protest organiser, Ricky Tambah, secretary general of the Popular Youth Movement (GPK). Activists have also been detained in Surabaya for burning an effigy of Megawati.

Megawati is reported to have said that people who show such disrespect for national symbols should be stripped of their citizenship and expelled from Indonesia.

On July 10, the Indonesian Muslim Students Action Committee (KAMMI), decided to defy this publicly by burying photos of Megawati and Hamzah Haz.

From Green Left Weekly, July 24, 2002.
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