Hatta Rajasa was narrowly beaten by Zulkifli Hasan for the chair of the PAN, following questions about his loyalty to the opposition. (Antara Photo/Rosa Panggabean)

Who You Calling a Liar, Hatta Rajasa Asks Amien Rais

MARCH 03, 2015

Jakarta. Former National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman Hatta Rajasa has hit out at his chief detractor a day after narrowly losing a bid for re-election, defending himself against insinuations that he was not loyal to the opposition bloc.

Hatta, whose five-year reign at the helm of the party known as the PAN came to an end on Sunday when he lost by 292-286 votes to challenger Zulkifli Hasan in a party congress in Bali, took to Twitter on Monday to shout down party stalwart Amien Rais, whose support of Zulkifli was seen as instrumental in the vote.

“During my leadership of the PAN, I consistently stayed with the KMP,” he wrote, referring to the Red-White Coalition allied with losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto.

Hatta was Prabowo’s running mate in last July’s presidential election; the pair lost to Joko Widodo and his Awesome Indonesia Coalition, or KIH.

On Saturday night, a day before the PAN members cast their votes for their new chairperson, Amien used his turn at the podium to cast doubt on Hatta’s allegiance to the opposition cause, insinuating that he met in secret with Joko and other KIH leaders last September.

“On the evening of September 30, 2014 [...] the chairman asked for permission to leave a meeting to have another meeting with friends from the KMP,” Amien told the thousands of PAN members gathered in Nusa Dua, Bali. “But an hour after that, according to an online media report, the chairman went to Surya Paloh’s house instead,” he added, referring to the chairman of the National Democrat Party (NasDem), a member of Joko’s coalition.

Hatta acknowledged on Monday that he went to the meeting, tweeting: “The meeting with president-elect Joko Widodo in Surya Paloh’s house [...] did happen.”

He added, though, that contrary to what Amien insinuated, he had informed KMP secretary Idrus Marham and chairman Aburizal Bakrie, both from the Golkar Party, about the meeting before it took place, and also briefed them about it afterward to allay any suspicions.

“Our friends at the KMP did not object [to the meeting]. They shared the principle that political communications must be built,” Hatta wrote.

He also added that his presence at the meeting, to congratulate Joko following a Constitutional Court ruling upholding his election victory, was natural and necessary to help tone down the tensions following the most bitterly contested and closest-run election in the country’s history.

“However tough the competition is, I believe we must display a big heart,” Hatta said. “I only congratulated [Joko]. There was no other agenda, no deals whatsoever. After the meeting, the political tension gradually eased.”

He added: “It is not true that I have lied. Let me ask Amien Rais, who has lied exactly?”

In his victory speech on Monday, Zulkifli sought to quell the hostilities between Hatta and Amien, the party’s two elder statesmen, by saying that both he and Hatta were “equally close” to the KMP, dismissing speculation sparked by Amien’s statement that the biggest Islamic-based party in the country had pro-government leanings despite its avowals of sticking with the opposition.

PAN finished with the fifth-most votes in the April 9 legislative election last year, winning 49 of the 560 seats in the House of Representatives.

Observers have cautioned that any escalation of the hostilities between Hatta and Amien could lead to a serious split in the party, similar to those that have riven the Golkar Party, the country’s second-biggest, and the United Development Party, or PPP. Each of these parties now has two distinct factions with its own leaders.