Defiant Gus Dur stands firm

He threatens to suspend Parliament as a special commission finds him guilty of abusing his powers

As legislators dithered for 12 hours yesterday before distributing to MPs a special parliamentary commission report which found President Abdurrahman Wahid guilty of abusing his powers in two financial scandals, a defiant Gus Dur dug in, threatening to shut Parliament down if they went too far.

If the bitterly-divided Parliament tried to impeach him, he would suspend the body and call snap elections in six months, he told Muslim clerics who visited him on the eve of yesterday’s vote.

His earlier threat of a massive show of support by his supporters did not materialise yesterday. But security forces were forced to fire tear gas at thousands of protesting students who tried to break into the Parliament complex, in scenes reminiscent of the fall of former president Suharto.

Still, the beleaguered Muslim cleric showed no signs of caving in.

Brushing aside the prospect of an impeachment trial, he told reporters: “No way, I will not resign because I was appointed by the MPR.” He was referring to the People’s Consultative Assembly, Indonesia’s highest law-making body.

Pandemonium outside Parliament was compounded by political infighting on whether to announce the findings on the Bulogate and Bruneigate scandals.

The panel’s confidential report, a copy of which was obtained by The Straits Times, concluded that the President had “abused his power” in both cases. But their evidence appeared to be tenuous, based heavily on circumstantial evidence. The 33-page document suggested that the theft of 35 billion rupiah (S$7 million) from the national food agency, Bulog, was carried out by people acting on behalf of Mr Abdurrahman. As for Bruneigate, the 50-member commission said that the

President had not channeled the money to the government as required by law.

Legislators interviewed yesterday said that the Nation Awakening Party, Mr Abdurrahman’s political party, threw a spanner at the eleventh hour by declaring the commission to be “illegal” and its probe “biased and prejudicial to Gus Dur”.Several of them walked out of consensus talks late on Sunday night, “in disgust at the attempts being made to topple Gus Dur”.

Analysts believe that by stalling the release of the report, Gus Dur loyalists were hoping to further delay a vote due on Thursday on the next course of action.

If legislators endorse the report, it could be the first step in a five-month process to unseat him. The DPR could issue a censure memorandum, giving him three months to respond.

If he did not do so, Parliament could then issue a second note and wait one month for his explanation.

Failure to do so could trigger off calls for a special MPR session to begin impeachment proceedings.

In his efforts to derail their efforts, Mr Abdurrahman appeared to be taking a leaf from founding president Sukarno’s playbook, when he told Islamic clerics over the weekend that he would “freeze” Parliament if it issued the first memo.

On balance, political observers said they expected Mr Abdurrahman to be able “to lengthen his political lifeline for, perhaps, another six months”.

Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri holds the key to his survival. The chairman of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) continues to believe that Mr Abdurrahman should be allowed to serve out his term until 2004.

Said a senior PDI-P legislator: “More than 50 per cent of us think that Gus Dur is not up to the job. But Ibu Mega insists that, for the sake of national unity, he should continue.”

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