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Indonesia's Megawati refuses to bury the hatchet

Publication Date : 18-08-2014


As hundreds of guests gathered at the State Palace on Sunday to celebrate Independence Day and watch President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono lead the flag-raising ceremony for the last time as head of state, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairperson Megawati Soekarnoputri decided to skip the event and, instead, stage her own flag raising at the party’s headquarters in South Jakarta.

Megawati has been included on the palace’s guest list for the past 10 years, given her status as a former president.

But Megawati, for the 10th consecutive time, skipped the event despite a statement by State Secretary Sudi Silalahi, who said that Yudhoyono had sent her an invitation well ahead of time, stressing that president-elect Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and a number of PDI-P politicians would be attending the event.

Relations between Megawati and Yudhoyono turned sour early in 2004 when Yudhoyono resigned from Megawati’s Cabinet when she was president, to run for the presidency himself, a move Megawati viewed as unethical.

Their relationship grew even worse when Yudhoyono won the election, defeating Megawati.

Yudhoyono once again squared off against Megawati in the 2009 presidential election, which the Democratic Party chairman won with a landslide victory.

Until today, Megawati has neither officially congratulated Yudhoyono nor conceded defeat.

PDI-P politician and House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Pramono Anung Wibowo said this would be the last time Megawati skipped the celebration at the State Palace.

“[She] will attend next year,” Pramono said with a grin.

Jokowi declined to comment on Megawati’s absence or the impact it might have on his hopes to reconcile the country’s political parties, including the ruling Democratic Party.

Jokowi plans to woo rival political parties into supporting his new administration.

He previously made a call to the nation to unite again after a divisive presidential race.

The Jakarta governor was supported during his presidential campaign by the NasDem Party, the National Awakening Party (PKB) and his own party, the coalition’s leader, the PDI-P, against the much larger coalition of political parties that the Prabowo Subianto-Hatta Rajasa ticket mustered.

Senior PDI-P politician Sidarto Danusubroto, who is also speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) said he believed Megawati’s absence would not affect Jokowi’s reconciliation plan.

Sidarto said that Megawati had a valid reason to miss the celebrations at the State Palace.

“She has held a ceremony at the party’s [PDI-P] headquarters for years,” he said.

He added, however, that following Jokowi’s win in the July 9 presidential election, Megawati had warmed to the idea of political reconciliation.

“I have seen signs from her about the spirit of reconciliation,” he added. “I can’t tell how strong they are, but it is only a matter of time.”

Sidarto added that he was among those who supported an alignment with the Democratic Party, as well as two other parties that he declined to name.

“We need enough support in the House,” he said.

Hamzah Haz, Megawati’s vice president during her tenure between 2001 and 2004, was among the former leaders who attended Sunday’s ceremony.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Hamzah reiterated his call for his United Development Party (PPP) to join the PDI-P-led coalition instead of the rival Gerindra Party-led coalition.

Hamzah said that only Megawati could navigate a possible reconciliation between herself and Yudhoyono.

He said now was the best time for Megawati and Yudhoyono to bury the hatchet, given that Megawati had completed her presidency in 2004 and that Yudhoyono would also soon be relinquishing his position.

“Everything depends on Bu Mega. “Hopefully, at some point, God Almighty will persuade her.”


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