Mega supports Gus Dur censure

Indonesian leader plans television appearance to urge calm, as deputy looks set to back parliament move.

President Abdurrahman Wahid suffered a potentially fatal political blow as his deputy Megawati Sukarnoputri agreed to move for an impeachment-bound parliamentary censure.

Facing that precarious prospect seven days from now, he moved quickly yesterday to try and calm tensions, ordering a trusted aide to East Java to urge his supporters to stay away from Jakarta.

In another move seen as directed at trying to win a last-minute reprieve from his opponents, he has also made plans for a national television address on Friday, where he is expected to urge calm.

But his efforts may appear to be in vain as Ms Megawati, the key pillar of support in his erratic 18-month-old government, is reportedly supporting the second censure against him.

A senior Cabinet minister told The Straits Times that Ms Megawati, whose Indonesian Democratic Party-Perjuangan (PDI-P) is the largest faction in Parliament, had told him that she “could not stop the constitutional process”.

“She has little choice but to join ranks with the others opposed to him.”

Former Justice Minister Yusril Izha Mahendra, chairman of the Crescent Star Party (PBB) who met her on Monday, also said she had hinted to him that “there was a lot of pressure from the party and things were difficult to handle”.

He added: “We were discussing PBB’s support for the second censure memorandum and when I asked her about PDI-P’s stance, she replied: ‘It would be like that too’.”

PDI-P sources disclosed that her preference has been for the President to resign voluntarily rather than face the humiliation of impeachment.

She had raised this with him on a few occasions during their regular breakfast meetings this month. But the sources said that he brushed aside her advice.

Over the last few months, Ms Megawati has become irritated by attacks on her private life and his public criticism of her ability to rule. Sources said she was also irked by his constant threat to let his supporters run amok if he was toppled. Indeed, a few hundred of his supporters rode through the city on motorbikes on Tuesday, in what was the first show of strength by his supporters.

But Mr Abdurrahman appears to be slowly heeding the unspoken message of his deputy.

Defence Minister Mahfud M.D. told reporters the 60-year-old leader instructed him on Tuesday to head for East Java and tell his Nadhlatul Ulama supporters to back off and not head to Jakarta.

Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung also disclosed the President’s plans for a TV address.

Aides said that if the TV address comes through, he would strike a conciliatory note and maybe even apologise in the hope that it could win him some breathing space.

But political observers said that it would be virtually impossible to strike any deals at this stage given that all the key players, especially Ms Megawati, had already decided to go for the jugular.

Noted the Cabinet Minister: “It’s gone past the point of no return. The political elite does not trust Gus Dur any more. Whatever he does now won’t win him any support because they seem to have already made up their minds about getting rid of him.”

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