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Front formed to push for democracy

Associated Press - August 6, 1998 (abridged)

Jakarta – A group of retired generals, former Cabinet ministers and senior politicians pledged Thursday to struggle for more democracy in Indonesia as a united front. The group, calling itself "Barisan Nasional," or national front, declared that a major aim would be to weaken the influence of the ruling Golkar party in the government.

"If the domination of Golkar could be decreased, then the sovereignty will practically be back to the people," said Kemal Idris, a retired army lieutenant general who chairs the front. He told reporters after a ceremony inaugurating the front that the government under new President B.J. Habibie was not much different than its predecessor.

Idris said the forum will monitor all actions of Habibie. "We will support all political parties fighting for total reform, and we insist not to support Golkar," Idris said, adding that the forum has no intention to turn into a political party.

Its secretary-general is Subroto, a former minister of mines and energy and former secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Also joining the forum was retired army general Edy Sudradjat, who lost the race for the Golkar chairmanship last month to State Secretary Akbar Tandjung. Besides more than 10 retired generals, the forum also was supported by two former Parliament speakers, a number of former Golkar executives and former Cabinet ministers under Suharto.