Gus Dur : I’ll topple corrupt opponents

President Abdurrahman Wahid yesterday launched a scathing attack on his political opponents in a game of brinkmanship, leaving little doubt that he was prepared to fight to stay in power.

He also suggested that a “third hand” had been inciting his followers in the week-long protest over attempts to impeach him for corruption and urged them to carry out vigilante-style arrests to stop them.

“If you see these people playing up, catch them immediately, don’t wait for the police, because the police have to gather legal evidence first,” he told a gathering of Muslim clerics in the East Java capital of Surabaya.

Without naming who the “third hand” was, he said the same group was behind the 1996 riots against his Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Indonesian Democracy Party (PDI).

He said police reports had indicated that this group could be linked to non-governmental organisations with foreign connections.

Earlier, arriving in a heavily-guarded motorcade in Pasuruan, a coastal town in the heartland of his political support, he vowed to crack down on corruption and said he was planning to prosecute 10 national figures for graft.

“Within three weeks, we will catch at least 10 people and these people will be big fish,” he said to shouting and clapping from the more than 5,000-strong crowd overflowing from the Al Anwar Mosque. “Those who want to topple me will be toppled themselves.”

He declined to name the 10. But sources close to the President told The Straits Times that it included several figures of the ruling Golkar Party, including Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung.

A senior member of Nadhlatul Ulama, which the President used to head, said it had compiled a dossier of cases involving Mr Akbar when he was Housing Minister under former president Suharto.

Despite his virulent attack yesterday, Mr Abdurrahman urged his supporters to exercise restraint, a point he made even more forcefully when he met 300 Muslim clerics in Surabaya later.

He said: “You can be hot in your heart but you must stay cool in your head… I’m happy you are ready to die bravely, but I prefer that you live bravely.”

Vice-President Megawati, on a visit in Solo in Central Java, also lashed out yesterday at the violence, saying she was “concerned” with what was happening.

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