Now for Round Two, today

Indonesia heaved a sigh of relief yesterday as the threat of mass unrest fizzled out after a big prayer rally in support of President Abdurrahman Wahid ended peacefully.

More than 20,000 followers of the Indonesian leader – one-tenth of the 200,000 anticipated – gathered at the Senayan sports complex carpark.

With the exception of two minor explosions, Jakarta escaped the widely-anticipated clashes between pro-Abdurrahman suicide squad members and others opposed to him.

But round two today could prove to be a bigger test of whether that peace can hold, as legislators look set to pass a censure motion against him and set the impeachment process in motion.

While the threat of having 200,000 supporters was exaggerated, many of those who did travel here have vowed to remain – waiting to react to any move to oust him.

Most supporters, men in white robes and the green scarves of the Nadhlatul Ulama (NU), which Mr Abdurrahman once led, sobbed openly during the three-hour rally at the prospect of his ouster.

He was seated on a podium with wife Siti Nuriyah, several NU leaders and Ms Sukmawati Sukarnoputri – sister of Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Addressing the crowd, he attacked his rivals for plotting to topple him. But, conscious of the threat of unrest and the pressure to appease those who criticised him for resorting to muscle politics, he called on those present not to resort to violence and to stay home when Parliament meets.

“We are here to pray, not destroy,” he said. “And because of this, we cannot behave like children. Don’t do anything that will cause losses to us all.”

Security forces remained concerned about possible violence today.

Hardline legislators appeared to ignore the possible threats of unrest and pushed ahead with efforts to set the impeachment process in motion.

The Straits Times understands that eight out of 10 factions in Parliament decided over the weekend to back a censure.

The political numbers were now against Mr Abdurrahman, whose erratic and turbulent 18-month rule has incurred the wrath of the very people who engineered his rise to the top in October 1999.

Posted in Indonesia