Gerindra, Prabowo fight
accusations of past rights

Halida Hatta, daughter of Muhammad Hatta, the co-founding father of Indonesia, remembers her father's words: Politics is dirty, but politics can be the only way to improve people's lives.

Her father's wisdom encouraged her to step into politics by joining the newly-established Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra,) although according to Gerindra Deputy-Chairman Fadli Zon, "it took two dinners to convince her to join the party."

"I believe the party and I share the same vision of how to build Indonesia. It offers a platform that seeks to directly make people prosper, just like what my father had dreamt of," she said during a visit to The Jakarta Post's headquarters on Monday.

Gerindra was established on Feb 6, 2008 as a political vehicle for former Army Special Force Command (Kopassus) Chief Lt. Gen. (ret.) Prabowo Subianto's (the party's chief patron) presidential campaign.

Halida's inclusion "softens" the party's face as Prabowo is frequently associated with human rights abuses during his tour of duty in East Timor and involvement in the kidnappings, torture, abuse and murder of anti-Soeharto intellectuals and activists during the turmoil of 1998. His deputy, Maj. Gen (ret) Muchdi Purwoprandjono, former deputy-chairman of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), was previously put on trial for the murder of human rights campaigner Munir Thalib; the court declared him innocent.

"The biggest obstacle for Prabowo and Gerindra is the ex-gerneral's notorious records in dealing with human rights cases. But the party has tried hard to change its image by recruiting the likes of Halida and the *victims of Prabowo's kidnapping', such as Pius Lustrilanang and Andi Arief," analyst Mohammad Qodari said.

The party's manifesto on human rights upholds "cultural particularism and national interest" as opposed to universal human rights. The party "rejects the issue of human rights becoming a political instrument of foreign parties in domestic affairs."

Halida's presence has also strengthened the party's economic platform, as she is expected to take over Hatta's populist legacy.

In its manifesto, Gerindra promises to create prosperity, social justice, and political order based on Pancasila (Indonesia's state ideology) and the original 1945 Constitution. "We would like to rebuild Indonesia just like how it was in the past when people gained prosperity from agriculture and fishing," Fadli Zon, a founding member of Gerindra said.

To gain sympathy Gerindra has bombarded the public with a television campaign aimed directly at garnering grass-root voters, resulting in "97 percent" of eligible voters now aware of the party, Fadli said.

The party claims some 12 million card carrying members. (naf)

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