Habibie calls on Indonesians to shed suspicions ahead of elections
January 5, 1998


JAKARTA, Jan 5 (AFP) - Indonesian President B.J. Habibie Tuesday said his government was determined to conduct just, fair and open elections in June and urged all Indonesians to shed their suspicions of his government.

"In line with turning the elections into a success, we should also eliminate the feeling of suspicion between components of the nation, especially between the socio-political forces and suspicion of the government," Habibie said.

Speaking at parliament while unveiling the draft state budget for 1999-2000, Habibie said there was still "enough time" for people to gradually decrease their suspicions and lay the basis for mutual trust.

"A nation will not be able to survive long in an atmosphere of continuing suspicion and mutual distrust," he said.

Indonesians, he said, should not doubt his and the government's intentions to turn the first elections since the fall of Suharto which his government has promised for June 7, into a just and fair one.

"I have instructed all ranks of the government and ABRI (the Indonesian Armed Forces) to remain neutral, impartial and maintain equidistance between all organisations partaking in the elections," he said.

He said the government was fully aware of the fundamental importance of the elections for the future of the nation and the state, and for the restoration of domestic and foreign confidence on the government and the economy.

"The government is fully aware that elections that are accepted, trusted and respected by the people is a must to form a government that can function efficiently and effectively in restoring ... national development and the building of pure democracy," he said.

"We are determined to implement (the polls) as honestly and as fairly, as transparently as possible," he added.

To assure it, the government has already invited the participation of the society, including the parties, non-governmental organisations, university students, youths and other civilian forces, to take part in supervising the elections.

"We even have accepted offers from abroad -- coordinated by the UN Development Program -- to help and partake in monitoring the implementation of the elections," he said.

Indonesian politicians have repeatedly aired doubts on the government's professed intention to conduct fair and honest elections, with most charging that Habibie, a former Suharto protege, is trying to preserve the status quo.

Parliament is currently debating a set of political laws, including those governing elections and the parties, with an end-January deadline.

Frictions between political parties, which have now mushroomed to over 100 since Habibie lifted Suharto-era restriction on the number of political parties, have also began to surface in many regions.