Gus Dur to face hostile MPs

Three large factions seem ready to push for second censure, which will take President nearer impeachment.

Key legislators appear to have made up their minds to oust President Abdurrahman Wahid, regardless of what he says when he comes before a hostile Parliament today to defend his tenuous rule.

Three of the largest parliamentary factions – the Indonesian Democratic Party-Perjuangan (PDI-P), Golkar, and an ad hoc coalition of Muslim parties – are veering towards passing a second censure motion against Mr Abdurrahman, the next step in the process towards impeachment.

Mr Maelono Soewondo of the PDI-P, which is headed by Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri, told The Straits Times that the consensus in Parliament was for the President to go.

“Whatever he says now will have little effect on our sentiments towards him. He is a discredited leader. He has shown that he cannot run the country anymore.”

Such calls have gained credence, said Mr Maelono, as legislators expect that the President will proclaim his innocence once again over two financial scandals – ”Buloggate” and “Bruneigate” – that triggered the first censure last month.

The scandals involve a US$2 million (S$3.4 million) donation by the Sultan of Brunei yet unaccounted for, and the embezzlement of US$3.5 million from the state food agency Bulog by the President’s former masseur.

Defence Minister M. D. Mahfud, a close ally of the President, said Mr Abdurrahman had no intention of defying legislators and would be conciliatory when he appears before the 500- member House.

The partially-blind leader will make a short statement before handing his 16-page response to newly-appointed Justice Minister Baharudin Lopa to read out.

Whatever the contents, it appears that a growing number of legislators remain bent on toppling him.

They say that his 17-month rule has been marked by policy failures, an inability to restore the economy to health, and separatist and ethnic clashes.

An influential Golkar legislator, who asked not to be named, said a second censure memorandum was now a given. The President had not shown any improvement and his leadership style remained erratic.

“We have been asking ourselves for months whether he is good for Indonesia,” he said.

“The answer is no.”

He said that the longer Mr Abdurrahman remained in power, the more damage he would do to Indonesia. “So, we are making plans to go ahead with another censure motion,” he added.

It is understood that legislators from all six parliamentary factions have already begun drafting the second memorandum. They are expected to pass it on April 30, after a month-long deliberation on Mr Abdurrahman’s response today. The President would then have 30 days to reply to the second censure.

If legislators find that response unsatisfactory, they could then call on the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), Indonesia’s highest legislative body, to hold a special session.

That would mark the start of formal impeachment proceedings.

The key to his survival continues to be with Ms Megawati who has, for a long time, been a voice of moderation and support for him in Parliament.

But that backing is slowly waning as she drifts further from the man she once described as “a longtime friend”.

Sources said she was upset yet again at not being informed of his recent decision to axe Forestry and Plantation Minister Nurmahmudi Ismail.

“How can she go on supporting him if he does not even bother to refer to his deputy over Cabinet changes?” an aide said.

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