Gus Dur unlikely to last to 2004, says Akbar

The Indonesian Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung says the President may be ousted before his term in office officially ends.

Indonesia’s Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung said yesterday that it was very hard for the beleaguered President Abdurrahman Wahid to last out his term until 2004 given growing pressures in the legislature to oust him.

He told The Straits Times in an interview that the three largest factions in parliament – the Indonesian Democratic Party of Survival (PDI-P), Golkar and the United Development Party (PPP) – were all veering towards holding an emergency session of the national assembly (MPR) within a year’s time to hold the President accountable for Indonesia’s debilitating problems.

“A lot of legislators are increasingly frustrated with Gus Dur’s inability to resolve our political and economic problems,” he said, using the President’s nickname.

He disclosed that Parliamentary members were now talking openly about using next year’s August MPR session to hold an emergency meeting akin to what happened in 1999 when legislators toppled former president B.J. Habibie through a secret ballot.

While acknowledging that the President had survived the threat of impeachment earlier this year, he said that politics in Indonesia were slowly changing against him.

Said Mr Akbar: “The problem is that Gus Dur is doing little to change his style of leadership. He has also not been able to handle several problems since taking over and has been involved in scandals.

“The momentum to replace him is getting stronger.”

The dismissal of two ministers and financial scandals linked to the palace – “Buloggate” and “Bruneigate” – had set legislators on a collision course with the President.

The million-dollar Buloggate scandal in particular, the Parliamentary Speaker noted, had dented Mr Abdurrahman’s credibility.

The Buloggate probe centres on whether the President allowed his former personal masseur Alip Agung Suwondo to use his name to obtain US$4 million (S$7 million) from the state food distribution agency Bulog in January.

Police arrested Mr Suwondo who is also the President’s former spiritual adviser last week after a week-long stakeout at his villa in Puncak, a mountain resort in West Java.

Mr Akbar said that legislators would summon Mr Suwondo along with two others for a parliamentary grilling in the months to come.

If there was sufficient evidence that the President was involved, legislators would serve notice for him to appear before the House of Representatives.

Referring to the President’s refusal to cave in to parliamentary pressure previously, he said that the year-old parliament could convene an emergency session in such circumstances.

In a veiled threat to Mr Abdurrahman, he said: “It is our right to seek clarification from the President. If he fails to turn up, he can be jailed for up to one year.”

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