Functional Group finally apologizes
January 18, 1999

Kompas Online

Only two days after a number of Functional Group notables and retired Armed Forces members declared the establishment of the Justice and Unity Party (PKP), the Functional Group finally apologized for its errors and mistakes of the past. The apology was conveyed by the group's general chairman Akbar Tandjung in a meeting with journalists in Jakarta on Sunday (17/1).

"Further, the new Functional Group which came into being through the Extraordinary National Conference with its new paradigms, is ready to enter the new era of Indonesia, an era of openness and democracy. The Group will ever be responsive towards the aspirations of the people, support the supremacy of law, prioritize justice in politics, economy and socio-culture for the attainment of the civil society," said Akbar, who was sided by secretary general Tuswandi and the entire central directing board of the Functional Group resulting from the extraordinary national conference of July 1998.

LIPI political observers Ikrar Nusa Bhakti and Sjamsuddin Haris, when contacted separately opined that the apology of the Functional Group had come much too late. They also thought that the Group's apology had been motivated by the establishment of the Justice and Unity Party by Functional Group notables and Armed Forces retirees.

"The Functional Group always has to get into a tight spot, before apologizing. Perhaps because currently it is under vigorous attack from the political elite, observers as well as new parties. That apology is not going to improve the Group's image," said Ikrar.

Correction of the past

According to Akbar, the apology by the Functional Group is in keeping with the spirit of mutual forgiving on the Idul Fitri Holiday. "The apology is at the same time to correct the errors and shortcomings of the past. No human or organization is perfect," said Akbar. As is known, the demand that the Functional Group should apologize for its errors of the past became particularly strong nearing the 34-th anniversary of the Group in October last year. But the Group rejected that demand, which led to strong reaction from the public, including the students' demand to dissolve the Functional Group. Marzuki Darusman, one of the Group's central board chairmen, took the initiative for the Group's apology, but that was annulled by the other Group functionaries.

Though promising to be "responsive towards aspirations from the public, the Functional Group clings to its position that civil servants should be maintained as members and directing members of political parties, although public aspirations that the civil servants should be neutral are becoming stronger. "What the Group is promoting is the political rights of citizens without considering whether they are civil servants or not," said Akbar Tandjung.

Reacting to the PKP

Reacting to the establishment of the PKP, Akbar Tandjung put forward that the Group considered this a reasonable matter, because in the present climate of democracy any citizen has the right to establish a political party. "The fact that formerly they participated in the group's extraordinary national conference, and then for some reason felt they could no longer be part of the Group, is their right and we cannot forbid that," said Akbar.

But Akbar stressed that their Functional Group membership automatically became void when they became members or directing members of another party. Also, that if a member of the Development Works Faction becomes a directing member of PKP, his membership in the faction lapses.

"Administratively, interim substitution of those members will be processed. We keep firmly to organizational principles," said Akbar. One of the Development Works Faction members to be recalled is Sutradara Ginting, who is a chairman in the PKP.

So far, none of the founders, directing members or sympathizers of the PKP have turned in their Functional Group Member Registration Numbers, as their argument is that the Functional Group until now has not yet officially become a party.

On Try Sutrisno's position as a Group elder, Akbar said that in the near future his side would first consult the person in question about the matter . Based on the official response, the Group's directing board would decide on the steps to be taken.

"It is still fresh in our minds that during the last Group anniversary he was happy to become a Group elder. That subsequently he took part in founding, or at least gave support and motivation to the founding of the PKP, is something we will be asking about," said Akbar.

Akbar said that the Group was not influenced by the founding of new parties by Functional Group functionaries. As to the question whether the presence of those new parties would let the air out of the Group, Akbar said that the Group continues to be confident in facing the coming general elections. As regards whether the people still gave their trust or not, is left completely up to the decision of the people.

Civil servants

Akbar emphasized that the Group's position with regard to the position of the civil servants, in the discussions of the Political Bill had not changed.

According to Akbar, the Functional Group will continue to promote that the neutrality of the civil servants be provided for in other law regulations. Preserving neutrality is done not by prohibiting their becoming members or directing functionaries of political parties, but by prohibiting certain structural functionaries from becoming political party directing functionaries.

On whether that staunchness of position would be maintained to the point of voting becoming necessary in Parliament, Akbar said that would be seen according to the decision-making mechanism in Parliament.

Asked why the Group did not adopt the same position with regard to Armed Forces civil servants, so they would have the right to vote and to be elected, Akbar argued that the matter had already been decided by the People's Consultative Assembly. "It has been the Assembly's consensus that the Armed Forces members in Parliament are appointed. We honor that," said Akbar. (*)