More demand for Gus Dur to go

Pressure continued to mount yesterday on President Abdurrahman Wahid to step down as parliamentarians and even a Cabinet minister repeated calls that he surrender power to avoid instability in Indonesia.

Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung said that a large number of legislators were firming up a petition to hold an emergency session of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) that could oust him sooner rather than “allow the country to degenerate into chaos”.

“There was a sharp drop in his legitimacy and credibility after we found him guilty of being involved in the financial scandals,” he told The Straits Times in an interview yesterday.

“But Buloggate and Bruneigate was just the tip of the iceberg. For many legislators, it confirmed that he was not a capable leader.

“We cannot have a President who is inconsistent and lacks a vision for the country. The longer he stays in power, the more damage he will do to this country’s economy and politics …

“He won’t be able to last out his term until 2004.”

He said that while the 500-member Parliament had issued him a censure note last week on the two financial scandals that could see the President impeached and sacked over a five-month time frame, a growing number of legislators were coming to the view that this option was too time consuming.

They wanted a faster solution, he said.

Mr Amien Rais, the MPR Speaker, later told reporters after a brainstorming session last night among major party leaders, that a fast-track special session to take the President to task was possible if “uncertainty” continued to reign.

At least half of the 700-member assembly would first have to agree, he said and stopped short of saying that a consensus had been reached among the leaders.

The Straits Times understands that fewer than 100 legislators have so far signed the petition demanding a special session. Said to be the initiative of Mr Akbar’s Golkar party, it is setting the party on a clear collision course with a desperate

President seeking also to divert attention from himself by exposing graft cases involving Golkar.

The two legislative speakers were speaking against a backdrop of attacks against Golkar branch offices in the East Java cities of Situbondo and Asembagus for two days running by thousands of supporters of Mr Abdurrahman.

Mr Akbar said he believed that “people close to the President” had instigated the East Java violence. “His supporters have to realise that by resorting to such measures, Parliament and the general public will lose patience in Gus Dur for not being able to control his own people.”

Some members of the President’s Cabinet are also showing signs of frustration. Law Minister Yusril Izha Mahendra, a member of the Islamic party caucus most vehement in calling for the President’s immediate ouster, yesterday suggested that Mr Abdurrahman “step down temporarily”.

The influential Coordinating Minister for Security and Political Affairs Bambang Yudhoyono was also upset with the President’s martial law plan and his threat to sack several top generals last week, western diplomats said.

“Bambang urged him to be cautious,” noted a senior diplomatic source.

“He warned the President that if he proceeded with these measures, there would be a rapid erosion of support for him which could hasten his downfall.”

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