‘Gus Dur men do not scare us’

Legislators move to second censure against President; 42,000-strong security force being deployed.

Legislators aiming to impeach President Abdurrahman Wahid will not buckle under pressure or be intimidated by his radical supporters, even as the authorities began deploying 42,000 security personnel yesterday to protect the capital from violence.

Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung said there was already a “consensus” among most factions in the 500-member House of Representatives to issue a second censure against Mr Abdurrahman.

The move would trigger impeachment proceedings.

“We are not scared of what his supporters plan to do,” he told The Straits Times. “We have a job to do in the nation’s interest and will not be deterred by their threats to wreak havoc.”

Most major factions, including the two largest – the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle and Golkar – seem to be veering towards supporting a second censure.

But analysts believe they will exercise caution given the threat of mass violence by Mr Abdurrahman’s diehard supporters in Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the Muslim body he once headed.

It has scheduled a mass gathering for Sunday, in a sports complex near Parliament, to pray for peace.

But many legislators are concerned that the supporters – which Mr Abdurrahman said may number 400,000 – could be used to pressure Parliament to back away from any move to topple their leader.

Some 15,000 fighters, vowing to wage a jihad, or holy war, against critics if Mr Abdurrahman is impeached, reportedly arrived here over the weekend.

Mr Akbar warned that the capital could be tense over the next few weeks given their presence – and the possible reaction this could provoke among groups that oppose Mr Abdurrahman.

“The President must realise that his comments – that people will fight for him – will not calm the situation,” he said. “It will only make things worse.”

He added that he had asked the national police chief to step up security at the parliamentary complex and for legislators who could become targets if things went awry.

Jakarta police spokesman Anton Bharul Alam said that 42,000 men would be deployed – 8,000 of them from the army. Two-thirds of them will be deployed for Sunday’s NU gathering and the parliamentary session the day after, when the House deliberates on whether to censure the President again.

The remaining troops will be mobilised only if the situation gets out of hand.

Despite the obvious security concerns, Mr Akbar said opposition to the President had reached a stage where legislators were not prepared to give up. “It is very hard for Gus Dur now … In fact, many legislators are trying to speed up the process of getting him out of office,” he said.

But the President did not appear to be the least bit concerned – publicly at least. He told newly-appointed ambassadors yesterday that he was confident the country would weather the political storm.

But NU clerics and supporters in his Nation Awakening Party (PKB) party are beginning to see him as a political liability. Said a PKB source: “We will support him all the way but there is doubt whether he can survive this.”

Posted in Indonesia