Abdurrahman agrees to be questioned

The Indonesian President invites legislators investigating two financial scandals to the palace in what is seen as an attempt to defuse tension.

President Abdurrahman Wahid yesterday sought to defuse growing tension with legislators investigating two financial scandals by inviting them to the palace to question him.

Just a day after he brushed aside a summons request to appear before a probe team in the House of Representatives (DPR), the beleaguered Indonesian leader conceded some ground after sensing that his adamant stance was generating even greater hostility in the legislature.

Members of the probe team told The Straits Times that his action calmed nerves, albeit temporarily because there were doubts about whether the President would backtrack.

Mr Ade Komaruddin of the Golkar party said: “His offer does smooth the way for my team to continue with the investigation.

“We have no problems if he wants us to question him at the Istana or any other place he chooses.

“What we are most concerned about, however, is whether he will stick with this decision. He says one thing one day and another thing another day.”

But presidential spokesman Wimar Witoelar left little doubt about the President’s resolve. He disclosed that Mr Abdurrahman was not opposed to giving information and was preparing a letter inviting the 50-member team to the palace.

He told reporters: “We have never ever objected to giving clarification to the Parliament. What we did not want is to sacrifice the institution of the presidency solely for the sake of making a populist move.”

The palace has long maintained that it was “unconstitutional and illegal” for the DPR commission to summon the President to testify on the scandals.

Analysts said that his willingness to compromise could have been a result of a growing recognition that the political groundwas beginning to move against him.

Said a Western diplomat: “He is fighting on too many flanks – the army, legislators and Muslim parties. He is beginning to realise that he can’t fight them all in one go.”

It will not be a smooth ride for Mr Abdurrahman though, with the two scandals serving as another serious test of his presidency.

Legislators are waiting for answers over a US$3.9-million (S$6.7-million) embezzlement allegedly carried out by his masseur and his receipt of a US$2-million donation from the Sultan of Brunei which, he claims, was a personal gift.

The two scandals could lead to possible impeachment proceedings.

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