Lawmakers set to censure Abdurrahman

But the motion is unlikely to lead to full-scale impeachment; many hope to use it as a ‘warning shot’ to President to wrangle more concessions from him

The majority of Indonesian legislators were yesterday veering towards passing a censure memorandum against President Abdurrahman Wahid tomorrow for his involvement in two financial scandals, despite his protestations of innocence.

But the motion is unlikely to result in full-scale impeachment proceedings, with many hoping to use this as a “warning shot” to wrangle more concessions from the Muslim cleric.

A senior legislator in the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), the largest party in Parliament, said: “With Gus Dur, we have to point a knife at him, which is what we will be doing with this memorandum. If we don’t threaten him, he won’t listen to us because he thinks we don’t exist.”

He said the leader had made several promises before but did not keep them.

The source cited, in particular, Mr Abdurrahman’s pledge in the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) last August to let Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri manage the day to-day running of the government.

“That has not really happened because he wants to have a say in everything.

“By issuing a memorandum, we hope that he will come to a compromise in which Ibu Mega takes over the government and he becomes a symbolic head of state,” added the source.

PDI-P is not alone in taking a tough line.

The Straits Times understands that at least 60 per cent of the 500-member Parliament will vote tomorrow to accept a report by a panel which suggested the leader had “abused his power” in the Buloggate and Bruneigate scandals. Golkar, the second largest party in Parliament, is likely to go against Mr Abdurrahman as well.

Golkar legislator Ade Komaruddin said: “It is really very hard for Gus Dur to get through this episode unscathed. It is bound to dent his political credibility.

“Some feel that he should do the honourable thing and just resign. Staying on longer only increases the costs this country will have to bear for poor leadership.

“But we prefer to take it one step at a time. A memorandum will be good at this stage as a warning to him.” Ironically, the group that backed Mr Abdurrahman most strongly in his bid for the presidency in 1999 is taking the hardest line.

Sources said that the Central Axis faction, an ad hoc coalition of Muslim parties, is calling for a special session of the MPR. Meanwhile, the President yesterday denied any involvement in the scandals.

He said on national television: “All those accusations are false. I was not involved in anything.” But he has so far been fighting a losing battle with the legislators.

Failing to win them over with financial inducements, analysts said he sought to scare them with threats of mass protests, violence and the “freezing” of Parliament.

Yesterday, he sought to apply more pressure through Defence Minister Muhammad Mahfud, who repeated a warning that the military could seize power if civilian bickering continued.

Legislators dismissed the threats. Said the PDI-P source: “It is too late for the President to do anything. He has lost this round.”

Posted in Indonesia