Minister Gets Drawn Into Golkar Leadership Squabble
Jakarta. The minister of justice and human rights, Yasonna Laoly, denied that there were any political motives behind his plan to endorse a pro-government faction inside the Golkar Party.
Yasonna earlier said his office planned to issue a decree recognizing former welfare minister Agung Laksono as the legitimate Golkar chairman. But the minister said on Thursday that he only based his decision on a recent ruling by the party’s internal tribunal.
“We have earlier left it to both factions to reconcile or [if the reconciliation failed] through the party’s internal mechanism,” he said.
But the Golkar tribunals’ rulings have been a source of controversy with each faction drawing its own interpretations.
Two tribunals issued split decisions with two judges ruling in favor of Agung, while the other two said the dispute should be settled by a court.
However, Yasonna argued that both the West Jakarta District Court and the Central Jakarta District Court have previously ruled that the two factions should seek a resolution through an internal tribunal process.
“I’m merely basing [my action] on the law and the legal facts [ruled by the internal tribunal]. If there are people who are not satisfied and now performing a political maneuver, go ahead,” he said.
The minister was referring to remarks by Bambang Soesatyo, a lawmaker loyal to Agung’s rival, Aburizal Bakrie.
Bambang said his colleagues in the House of Representatives would petition the legislature to launch an inquiry if the minister chose to legally recognize Agung’s chairmanship.
“If such an inquiry is launched, then I’m more than ready to explain [my actions],” Yasonna said.
He added that the ministry was now waiting for Agung to submit his executive structure before formally recognizing his chairmanship of the party.
Golkar split in two in December, with one faction throwing its support behind Agung and the other remaining loyal to Aburizal, the incumbent chairman.
Agung has criticized Aburizal for the party’s poor results in last April’s legislative elections as well as the latter’s support for former general Prabowo Subianto, who eventually lost the presidential race to Joko Widodo.
However, Aburizal refused to back down from his re-election bid, staging a national congress in Bali in November — months ahead of time.
The congress, which his rivals see as a sham, saw Aburizal re-elected for a second term.
A separate congress held in Ancol, North Jakarta, saw anti-Aburizal party members elect Agung as chief in early December.
Agung on Wednesday met with Surya Paloh, chairman of the National Democratic Party (Nasdem), a key political ally of President Joko.
At the meeting, Agung openly expressed his wish to support the president, arguing that Aburizal was the only reason Golkar emerged as an opposition party for the first time in its 50-year history.
On Thursday, Agung reiterated his stance, expressing his desire to leave the opposition Red-White Coalition (KMP), which has managed to take control of the legislature.
“We’ll step out of the KMP. According to the party’s doctrine, culture and character, Golkar has always been on the side of the government,” he said. “But remember, we will position ourselves as an objective, critical and constructive partner of the government.”
Agung said his party would not demand anything from Joko’s administration, including cabinet seats.
” We don’t have to be in the government to help the government. Our goal is not about power. We just want to increase [the government's] performance while restoring the party to its former glory,” he said.
The shift will tip the balance inside the legislature, now ruled by lawmakers of the Red-White Coalition. Golkar holds several key positions in the House, including the speaker post now occupied by veteran lawmaker Setya Novanto.
Agung said he would embrace all Golkar members currently loyal to Aburizal, including Aburizal himself.
“Firstly I will send Aburizal Bakrie a formal letter, asking him to co-chair the party. Secondly, I will meet him in person,” Agung said.
“If they are willing to accept [the offer], fine. We have the goodwill to accommodate [all sides]. But if they refuse, then it is not our fault.”
Agung said the Golkar lawmakers who have indicated that they would launch an inquiry against the minister’s decision to acknowledge Agung’s chairmanship were in the minority.
“Once [the ministry] officially declares who is the legitimate ruler, [the lawmakers] will come around. Perhaps there will be one or two who persist. I even heard there are those who want to resign from the House. But the majority accept [the decision],” he said.
Agung also dismissed the Aburizal camp’s interpretation that the internal tribunal’s ruling was a draw for both sides.
“There is only one decision made by the tribunal. All the judges signed the ruling,” he said.
“There is not a single judge who said [Aburizal's] Bali congress was legitimate. On the other hand, not a single judge said [Agung's] Ancol congress was illegitimate. So two judges said the Ancol congress was legitimate and the other two abstained.
“So it is a 2-0 win [for Agung] and not a 2-2 draw like the Bali camp has claimed.”
Agung added that all the judges at the tribunal wanted reconciliation and for the winner not to punish the opposing camp.
But Arya Fernandes, a researcher with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Aburizal would not go down without a fight, which means reconciliation in Golkar’s ranks would remain elusive.
“There is no chance of a reconciliation between the two camps. The dispute will only get more heated in the future.
Arya cited the Aburizal camp’s move to lodge an appeal against the decision by the West Java District Court not to rule in the dispute. Aburizal’s team is also planning to challenge the planned ministerial decree in the State Administrative Court (PTUN).
The court has earlier annulled a similar ministerial decree to endorse one camp in the United Development Party (PPP).
The war begins
The Aburizal camp also reported Agung’s supporters to the National Police on Wednesday, accusing them of document forgery.
Idrus Marham, the secretary general of Aburizal’s camp, said there were several irregularities in the petition that paved the way for Agung’s congress in Ancol.
The petition, he claimed, used a forged Golkar stamp and included members of other parties and even a Golkar politician who has been dead for several years.
“We’ll wage war [against Agung's camp] who is clearly violating the law. We reported all names connected to this forgery,” Idrus said.
Nurdin Halid, one of Aburizal’s deputies, said the findings should serve as proof to Yasonna, urging the minister to call off his plan to recognize Agung’s chairmanship.
Agung has denied the accusations of forgery.
Agun Gunandjar Sudarsa, a member of Agung’s camp, said he believed that police would disregard the accusations. He added that the party’s internal tribunal had already cleared them of any wrongdoing.
But National Police chief of detectives Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso seemed to take the case seriously.
“This case needs to be investigated quickly and thoroughly, which is why we are forming a special team,” he said. “Right now there are six people [investigating the forgery accusation] but if we need more we can add them.”
Ali Mochtar Ngabalin, another Aburizal supporter, filed a complaint against a man named Roger with the Jakarta Metro Police on Thursday, alleging that the latter had assaulted him on Tuesday.
Ali claims that Roger was hired by Yorrys Raweyai, a member of Agung’s camp, whom Ali said had been threatening him.
He alleges that Roger attacked him with a blunt object, hitting him on the chest and head. However, Roger on Thursday reported Ali to the same police headquarters for “unpleasant conduct.”
Minister Yasonna admitted that Golkar’s internal dispute was far from over and said it would take a third convention attended by both camps to settle the issue once and for all.
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