Gus Dur brushes aside graft charges

President Abdurrahman Wahid edged closer to being impeached as he defiantly brushed aside corruption charges levelled against him in Parliament yesterday by legislators bent on toppling the Indonesian leader by August this year.

Setting the stage for another fiery confrontation with legislators, he insisted that it was unconstitutional to remove him from office.

An oblique apology at the end of an hour-long speech did little to hide his scorn for the parliamentary probe and its findings, which he said was nothing but a tool to undermine his administration.

“The accusations are baseless,” said Justice Minister Baharuddin Lopa, who read out the 15-page text as the President sat passively before legislators with his deputy Megawati Sukarnoputri beside him.

Several of the 390 legislators attending the session appeared at times to murmur in disbelief as he rebutted, at length, the charges levelled against Mr Abdurrahman for complicity in two graft scandals. He said the probe team – which he branded “illegal” – had concluded only that the President “could be suspected of having played a role” in the Buloggate scandal and “had given inconsistent statements” in the Bruneigate case.

Representatives of two of the largest parliamentary factions attacked the speech, saying it gave them stronger justification to press ahead with a second censure.

Golkar MP Slamet Effendy Yusuf said: “Golkar is not satisfied. The President avoided explaining many things.”

The Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), led by Ms Megawati and the largest parliamentary faction, took a hard line.

Mr Maelono Soewondo of the PDI-P told The Straits Times that several factions were planning to convene a special session of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) in June to mark the start of impeachment proceedings. “His comments have only made the opposition more united. But we won’t do anything drastic … We are prepared to wait.

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