JAKARTA (JP): Minister/State Secretary Akbar Tandjung will ask PresidentB.J. Habibie for a leave of absence so he can focus on campaigning for Golkar Party ahead of the June 7 elections.
Akbar said he made the decision to allay fears he would misuse state facilities while campaigning for Golkar, a practice common in past elections.
""If possible, I would like the President to give me a leave of absence before the campaign period starts,"" Akbar said. The campaign period is slated for May 19 to June 4.
Akbar said the decision came after a marathon Golkar executive meeting which finished at dawn on Tuesday. It also was decided at the meeting that Akbar would be the only minister to campaign for Golkar. Most of Habibie's 36-strong Cabinet are members of the ruling Golkar.
However, the meeting failed to set a definite date for a special meeting to discuss the party's presidential candidate.
Akbar said Golkar originally proposed to cofeature State Minister of Public Housing Theo Sambuaga and State Minister of Sports and Youth AffairsAgung Laksono in the campaign period. The two are deputy chairmen of Golkar.
""What we decided reflects our commitment to make a break with the past and go along with the reform movement,"" Akbar said.
He said Golkar also dropped wives of government officials from its list of legislative candidates, although many of the party's grassroots supporters wanted to nominate the women as candidates.
Akbar will represent Bogor regency as a legislative candidate at the request of Golkar's branch there and will top the list of the party's legislative candidates in West Java. In the June polls, eight seats in the House of Representatives will be available in Bogor, which has a populationof 4.5 million.
In his capacity as minister/state secretary, Akbar said the government would not issue a regulation on the issue of Cabinet ministers campaigning for their respective parties.
""We no longer need such a regulation. Why should we issue it if it turns out that only one or two ministers will campaign,"" Akbar said.
State Minister of Investment Hamzah Haz is the other Cabinet member who leads a party contesting the general election. Hamzah chairs the United Development Party (PPP).
""I appeal for the Indonesian people's understanding (to allow ministers who chair parties to campaign),"" Akbar said.
In order to ensure fair and just elections, the General Elections Commission (KPU) banned poll contestants from recruiting state officials, including ministers, to campaign for them. The ban sparked controversy because the President earlier said all but five ministers would be allowed to campaign.
Akbar's statement on Tuesday appeared to end the dispute.
Akbar also denied allegations that Golkar had misused funds from the social safety net program. ""I demand those who accuse us of such a malfeasance to provide evidence,"" he said, adding that Golkar raised funds for the elections from its members and supporters.
In Denpasar, Bali, secretary-general of the Justice and Unity Party (PKP)Hayono Isman reiterated his warning that a certain party could misuse statefunds and facilities.
""We have to cooperate with other parties which are struggling for reform to prevent the party from committing such a malfeasance in order to maintain the status quo,"" Hayono said at a congress hosted by PKP's Bali branch.
Hayono, a former Golkar member and minister during the Soeharto regime, did not say which party he was referring to.
He said the government must remain impartial and fair in the general election because most people still feared and obeyed government officials.
A number of PKP members at the congress wore T-shirts bearing the photo of former vice president Try Sutrisno, who is a member of the party.
Hayono said PKP would allow all of its branches to campaign for their respective presidential candidates.
In Purwokerto, Central Java, the local chairman of the National AwakeningParty (PKB), Noer Iskandar al-Barsany, said he regretted continuous attacksby followers of a certain party against PKB members. However, he said he asked his followers not to take revenge for the attacks.
""I call on the leaders of the concerned party to stop the attacks,"" Iskandar said, without identifying which party he was referring to.
A number of clashes between PKB and PPP supporters have taken place in the provincial towns of Tegal, Pekalongan, Jepara, Pemalang, Temanggung andSragen over the past two months. (30/45/prb/amd)