Gus Dur’s supporters threaten violence

Armed group takes over ferry port; President’s followers warn of worse to come if he is removed from office.

Supporters of President Abdurrahman Wahid yesterday seized a ferry port and started a loyalty oath drive in his Java strongholds, threatening a spiral of violence if his opponents topple him.

As Indonesia edged towards anarchy, with legislators plotting to remove the Muslim cleric as soon as possible, the police said they would put 40,000 troops on high alert in anticipation of “disturbances” in the capital.

Jakarta yesterday saw about 3,000 street demonstrators demanding the disbandment of the Golkar party, which Mr Abdurrahman’s supporters believe lies behind moves to oust him.

Other parts of Java, however, saw his followers resorting to strong-arm tactics.

In East Java, more than 2,000 supporters rallied for the fourth day running, attacking Golkar branch offices and blocking a port linking the province with the resort island of Bali.

Carrying sickles and knives, they occupied the parking lot at Katapang port in Banyuwangi district for nearly three hours, disrupting traffic between Bali and East Java.

Mr Choirul Annam, a leader of the Nadhlatul Ulama (NU) there, said that the 30-million strong organisation previously led by Mr Abdurrahman was prepared to “do anything necessary” to keep him in power.

“We have the numbers,” he said. “If the legislators want to play dirty, we can also play dirty.”

The Straits Times understands that more than 100,000 NU supporters in Semarang, Central Java, took a oath to die for Mr Abdurrahman.

Mr Choirul warned that if the President was replaced, NU members would flood Jakarta and “take over” Parliament.

Echoing his threats, NU chairman Hasyim Muzadi said moves to impeach MrAbdurrahman could trigger violence.

But the President said yesterday: “What’s the point of destruction? Let everything go along according to the democratic process.”

Security forces, however, were taking the threats seriously. Jakarta police said they would put up roadblocks to stop the masses from entering the capital.

The military’s territorial affairs chief, Lieutenant-General Agus Widjoyo, ruled out implementing “martial law or a state of emergency, as some ignorant and foolish people think we will do”.

Political observers suggested that the NU threats might simply be psychological warfare to scare off legislators, on whom they had little effect anyway.

Yesterday, parliamentarians continued to collect signatures for two petitions – one asking Mr Abdurrahman to resign and the other calling for a special session to impeach him.

Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri, however, put the brakes on an early impeachment by blocking members of her Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), the largest faction in Parliament, from signing any of the petitions.

But whatever breathing space Mr Abdurrahman secured, dissipated with reports that 232 Muslim clerics in West Java, 40 per cent of them from NU, had passed a motion over the weekend calling for impeachment.

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