Megawati in for political jabs

JAKARTA: Indonesian legislators, their eyes on next year's elections, have begun to turn up the political heat on President Megawati Sukarnoputri after giving her little trouble since she took power in 2001. 

Legislators said yesterday they would question members of Megawati's government next week over the recent controversial purchase of Russian warplanes and also over the loss to Malaysia in the World Court of two disputed islands. 

Political analysts said the message was clear ahead of Indonesia's first direct presidential election next year. 

“These are little jabs that will besiege Megawati up until the election. They're not aimed at toppling her now but at hurting her chances of winning in 2004. 

“Both cases will cast doubt on the transparency and performance of the government,” said political analyst Indra Jaya Piliang at the Jakarta-based Centre of Strategic and International Studies. 

Legislators said a parliamentary committee decided late on Tuesday to begin summoning ministers, businessmen, military officials and a Russian envoy next week to clarify an April deal with Russia that gives Indonesia four Sukhoi jets and two Mi-35 helicopters in return for an assorted batch of commodities. 

Several MPs have alleged the complicated deal violated budget rules and bypassed several bureaucratic posts, such as the defence ministry. The government has defended the deal. 

Parliament also moved a motion to summon the government to explain why Indonesia late last year lost in the World Court a dispute with Malaysia over ownership of two tiny islands off the eastern coast of Borneo. MPs have accused Megawati of making little effort to retain the islands. 

“There is no intention to harm the Megawati administration through the Sukhoi and (island) inquiries. These are genuine checks on the government. 

“But I believe the cases will show incompetence inside the Megawati government,” said Effendie Choirie, a legislator from the Nation Awakening Party. 

Legislators sacked Megawati's predecessor, Abdurrahman Wahid, for incompetence in July 2001, allowing her to move up from the vice president's post. – Reuters  

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