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Interview with Megawati Soekarnoputri

Voice of America - March 20, 1997

Megawati Sukarnoputri: "... if my name is not among the list of candidates standing for election, many people will decide not to participate in these elections."

The general elections in Indonesia will take place next May. radio Voice of America reporter, Irna Sinulingga, recently interviewed several official from political parties.These interviews will be reported in turns. Now follows an interview with Megawati Sukarnoputri.

IS: The foreign media refers to you as the ousted head of the PDI, opposition leader, fighter for democracy, and so on. How do you actually wanted to be called, mBak Mega?

MS: I am not after any particular title. But the decision of the party as from the National Assembly of 1993 until now is that I am the legitimate Chairperson Central Council of the PDI.

IS: Political observers say that the PCI has split between the Megawati and the Soeryadi camp and that this will have a negative effect on the PDI in the May elections. What are your comments?

MS: This is what concerns me so much. It seems that most foreign observers don't understand the situation inside the PDI. In fact there is no split. All of the members, or the vast majority are still in the PDI and follow the party rules and recognise my leadership. The issue now are the efforts of those who are being manipulated from above to depose me. But they have no support from the PDI membership. I must remind people that I am the first PDI chair elected from below in the 30 years of the New Order. When I was elected, many people, especially outsiders, doubted my support from below. because in previous times, leaders or chairpersons or presidents of organisations have been arranged by the government; that A or B must get the job. But my election in the extraordinary congress in Surabaya and then the national Assembly in 93 saw the aspirations from below coming to the fore. This is what outside observers must understand. Now the most annoying thing is that I am asked to reconcile with those that call themselves the Congress appointed leadership. I have said that there is no chance of that at all. Why do some people what be to reconcile? Because they know that if I participate in the elections and my name is among the candidates for election to membership of the House of Representatives and the Peoples' Consultative Assembly then this will cause a lot of trouble for many forces. Because my supporters, my sympathisers, the PDI membership, the PDI cadres, the PDI structure are all following my instructions, and waiting for my instructions as to what should be done next vis-a-vis the elections.

IS: Are they still waiting or have you sent messages out already?

MS: From the beginning it has been clear, transparent, that there has been a force outside the party trying to depose me as party chairperson. The outside world wants to know why are they trying to depose me. This is because the PDI under my leadership has been able to do something that has previously always been very difficult, namely, to consolidate the party. Consolidation means putting everything in order, both structurally and otherwise, all the disorder that was there before. And with this consolidation, making the party more solid and united, then in the next elections, according t various observers we could get an "amazing" vote. Nah, in the Indonesian political set-up, such a development would be part of the transition into the future. The polarisation that takes place would upset all the calculations that have for so long seemed stable. I am not saying that there would be instability. No. But there will be changes in the political spectrum and balance of forces [konstelasi] and this is becoming clearer and clearer every day. On one side there are those who want no change, but I can say that in society, there is always change, sometimes small, sometimes middle-sized, sometimes great. Of course, such processes cause many problems. That is what I want to explain.

IS: What role will Mbak Mega have in the elections, either directly or indirectly.

MS: There is no question of talking in terms of "direct" or "indirect". When I was elected I said that everything we do must be in accord with the party constitution and rules. Even now, with all the illegal and unconstitutional actions that have been taken [against us], I will still push the party to the forefront, through constitutional processes. This means that I have instructed the party to participate in all stages of the formal election preparations, that is the formal 12 stages. [e.g. submission of candidates, etc] At the moment we are into stages 8/9. Finally, there will be the campaign, period, the week of quiet and the actual election day on May 29. There is still plenty of time for the leadership to decide what we will do. But there are already many reports, many hopes and wishes, that if my name is not among the list of candidates standing for election, many people will decide not to participate in these elections.

[Translated by Max Lane, ASIET National Coordinator]