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Muslim scholars warn of chaos, bloodshed

Jakarta Post - December 28, 1998

Jakarta – Muslim scholars Abdurrahman Wahid and Emha Ainun Nadjib have issued dire warnings of chaos and even bloodshed in the run-up to the general election in June 1999 unless a national dialog for reconciliation was held to head off the danger.

Speaking separately on Sunday, the two men were discussing Abdurrahman's campaign for a dialog among people that he believed represented the major political forces in the country.

Abdurrahman, speaking on the eighth-day of his 15-day "open house" at his residence in Ciganjur, South Jakarta, was reiterating his earlier statement that if his plan for a national dialog should fail, massive unrest may occur.

Abdurrahman, who chairs the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and who established the National Awakening Party (PKB), called on members of both organizations not to be lured into the fray. He called on them to remain firm in their adherence to Islam and to leave the matter of possible chaos to the security authorities. "This stance of mine should be understood as a preventive action. Not that I am 'optimistic' there should be chaos, but we need to be vigilant," he said.

Emha, a poet and political commentator, was speaking at the Jenderal Soedirman University in Purwokerto, Central Java. He came out strongly in favor of Abdurrahman's national dialog plan.

Emha cited recent bloody incidents including the murder spree that started mid-1998 in East Java town of Banyuwangi and the clashes in Ketapang, West Jakarta and Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara. "The threat of bloodshed is very real, if the proposed national dialog should fail," he said. "Look at the incidents. Are they not bloody enough? Hasn't there been enough people's blood spilled?"

"I am not only supportive of Abdurrahman's plan for a national dialog, in fact I was the one who suggested that Gus Dur [Abdurrahman's nickname] meet figures such as [Armed Forces Commander Gen.] Wiranto, [President B.J.] Habibie, and [former president] Soeharto," he said.

"That national dialog is a must. However, those figures should 'take off' their positions, organizations and various other labels and just bring with them their statesmanship." he added. Emha criticized Habibie who has refused to participate in the planned national dialog. "I am really concerned. The refusal is a sign that Habibie only thinks of himself as president...that he's Habibie, rather than thinking of Indonesia."

Abdurrahman stirred controversy when he held meetings with Wiranto, Habibie and Soeharto, in his campaign to organize a dialog involving the three with himself as the mediator. He said Wiranto represented the military bureaucracy, Habibie the civilian bureaucracy, and Soeharto and himself have considerable numbers of followers.

When he came under fire for including Soeharto in the plan, he mentioned the bloody incidents in Banyuwangi, Ketapang and Kupang as proof of his theory that Soeharto's followers were responding adversely to the "ill treatment" afforded by the public to the former president.

On Saturday, Abdurrahman introduced a new format for the dialog. "If the meeting of four national figures is impossible, the dialog should be held at least between Habibie and Soeharto," he told reporters at the NU secretariat in Jakarta.

"Wiranto and I are not important in the dialog. the most important is that Pak Habibie and Pak Harto meet," he said. "The urgency for the meeting of both figures is that it can prevent a civil war," he added.

Muslim leader Amien Rais said on Saturday that any national dialog should be initiated and organized by the nation's top universities only. "I will on]y agree if the national dialog is initiated and organized by top universities," he told reporters at the Muhammadiyah Muslim organization secretariat in Jakarta. Amien is the former chairman of the organization, and now is chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN).

Asked about the eligible participants for the dialog, he suggested that the four signatories of the Ciganjur declaration should be included in the event. The signatories were Amien, Abdurrahman, chairperson of the splintered Indonesian Democratic Party Megawati Soekarnoputri and the Yogyakarta monarch Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X.

Separately, political observer Ichlasul Amal said in Yogyakarta that Soeharto should not be included in the dialog because he represented the New Order regime that the reform movement had tried so hard to terminate.