, The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 07/24/1999 7:02 AM | National
JAKARTA (JP): Politicians and observers warned on Friday that certain people in the political elite were attempting to exploit conflicts between supporters of nationalism secular and Islam for their own benefit.
Cornelis Lay of Gadjah Mada University, National Awakening Party (PKB) secretary-general Muhaimin Iskandar and Nationalist Student Movement (GMNI)secretary-general Ahmad Baskara were commenting on a proposal by a group ofpoliticians to seek a presidential candidate other than those nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and ruling Golkar Party.
The three were speaking at a regular discussion held by the Center for Indonesian Democracy.
National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman Amien Rais said the new grouping, which he called ""center"", would evade a deadlock when the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) elects the next president.
Cornelis said the plan to establish the new faction was ""an effort by a few people who want to manipulate discourses on conflicts between Muslims and nationalists"" for their own benefit.
He said that, contrary to what many have predicted, a widespread conflictbetween nationalists and Muslims would not break out at the grassroots level.
Citing the outcome of the June 7 elections, Cornelis said the nationalistIndonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) topped the vote-count in many predominantly Muslim areas throughout Central and East Java. However, clashes instead exploded between supporters of Islam-based parties, namely PKB and the United Development Party (PPP), he said.
A deadlock seems imminent for the presidential election, scheduled for November, as neither PDI Perjuangan's chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, nor Golkar, which has nominated incumbent B.J. Habibie, would gain a majority at the 700-seat MPR.
PKB's Muhaimin suspected that the planned new faction was aimed at preventing Megawati from becoming president.
""I wonder whether the 'central' is just a new form of Islamic faction which is intended to foil Megawati's bid,"" Muhaimin said.
He said PKB had never dropped its support for Megawati, despite Amien's claim that PKB founder Abdurrahman Wahid, better known as Gus Dur, gave hisapproval for the new faction.
""Up to now, we believe the poll winner must be given the chance to assumepower. I don't think Gus Dur is that serious in responding to the plan to form the 'center',"" Muhaimin said.
Meanwhile, GMNI's Baskara challenged the view that nationalists opposed Islam. He said the country's founding fathers decided to build a nation state, instead of an Islamic state, but gave Muslims a great opportunity tocome to power through a democratic system.
""Islam is allowed to play the key role in the state, but not through undemocratic means,"" Baskara explained.
He said there was no evidence that founding president Sukarno, the man who promoted nationalism, had ever thought of destroying Islam.
However, Cornelis said that nationalism later became prone to manipulation when the ideology was claimed by the ruling Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI) during Sukarno's regime.
""This was a historical mistake that in turn weakened the nationalists themselves,"" he said.
Nationalism, he said, refers to equality and justice for all citizens, regardless their ethnics, religions or even political affiliations.
According to Cornelis, the time has come for Megawati to play a historical role in reconciling nationalist and Muslim camps, the two strongest political groupings in the country.
""She should not pay too much attention to pressure for her to overhaul the list of legislative candidates that many have criticized as dominated by non-Muslims,"" he said. (amd)