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Megawati's camp denies chapter takeovers

Jakarta Post - June 19, 1998 (slightly abridged)

Jakarta – Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) executives aligned to Megawati Soekarnoputri have denied giving the order for a series of "takeovers" of party offices in several cities.

Alexander Litaay, secretary-general of the ousted Megawati's PDI leadership, said yesterday his camp was not involved in persuading followers to take over the headquarters of party chapters from supporters of the government-recognized chairman Soerjadi.

"PDI members' actions to take over the chapter (buildings) from Soerjadi's supporters were spontaneous," he told The Jakarta Post. He said Megawati's faction had never issued an instruction to its members to regain control of the chapters nationwide. "It's completely their own initiative and right to retake what belongs to them, which was stolen in 1996."

The action continued yesterday when about 100 Megawati supporters took control of the Central Java chapter's building in Semarang. "We took control of the PDI chapter building without asking for the Megawati PDI leadership's consent," said Sutikno, coordinator of the action. "We took over the building at the request of Megawati's Central Java loyalists."

The apparently spontaneous initiatives were inspired by Megawati's supporters here, who staged a protest in front of the party headquarters in Central Jakarta early this month. They demanded the government return the party headquarters – site of a violent takeover by Soerjadi followers on July 27, 1996 – to Megawati's PDI leadership. The move immediately triggered similar actions nationwide.

About 500 Megawati's supporters peacefully took over the PDI's North Sumatra chapter headquarters from the pro-Soerjadi faction in Medan last Saturday. Their colleagues in South Sumatra followed suit and took control over the party chapter's headquarters in Palembang on Monday. Supporters in Riau province conducted the same action earlier this week.

Meanwhile, about 200 supporters of Megawati took over the party's Binjai branch office in North Sumatra Wednesday. On the same day, executives of Soerjadi's camp in Yogyakarta said they were switching their support, effectively dissolving Soerjadi's representation there and handing over the chapter office to Megawati's supporters.