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Retired officers to launch new party

Indonesian Observer - January 15, 1999

Jakarta – Several former high-ranking military and government officers, staunchly critical to the Habibie government, are set to officially launch a new political party in Jakarta today.

A ceremony marking the party's launch will be held at 9:00 a.m. at the Manggala Wanabhakti Building in South Jakarta. Hundreds of invitation letters, signed by PKP's Declaration Committee Secretary Tatto S. Pradjamanggala, have been delivered to prospective guests.

Retired General Edi Sudradjat and other former cabinet ministers, including Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, Siswono Yudohusodo and Hayono Isman, are among those who are set to found the Justice and Unity Party (PKP). Insiders explained that former vice-president Try Sutrisno had expressed an interest at becoming one of the party's founders, but modestly declined to confirm his support for the new party.

Other retired generals founding the new political party include former chairman of the House of Representatives Wahono, former deputy Army chief Suryadi, former intelligence chief Eri Sudewo, former head of socio-political affairs Bambang Triantoro, and former East Java military commander Saiful Sulun.

Ahead of the party's launch on Monday, Try Sutrisno, who heads the Association of Retired Armed Forces Officers (Pepabri), appeared in East Java alongside Edi and Hayono and a number of other PKP founding members.

Though Try swore that his visit to East Java was to give him a chance to meet Pepabri officials in the province for consolidation, many suspicious analysts believe that the tour may have also been used to drum up PKP support ahead of June's general election.

Some analysts have warned that the formation of the new party could pose a significant threat for Golkar in this year's general election, as most of its founders are former top officials in the ruling group. The PKP could chisel into Golkar's support at the next election, which it is hoped, will be both democratic and fair.

Edi Sudradjat, a former defense and security minister, was the leading opposition figure to Akbar Tandjung in the Golkar leadership battle last year. Edi was nominated by Try and a number of Golkar loyalists, as a candidate to lead Golkar in the next election, but was defeated by Tandjung, who is the current state/secretary minister.