Restore order, Bambang told

Gus Dur accused of brinkmanship as he orders security chief to act, but stops short of declaring state of emergency.

Indonesia sank into confusion as President Abdurrahman Wahid yesterday ordered his security czar to take all necessary steps to ensure order, but stopped short of declaring the emergency rule that he had threatened to impose.

With the likelihood of impeachment hovering in the background, the increasingly-isolated leader appeared on national television and warned that attempts to oust him could tear the sprawling archipelago apart.

Saying that the country was facing an “emergency political situation”, he ordered coordinating security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take the necessary measures to “restore order, security and law as soon as possible”.

Gen Bambang told reporters last night that his orders contained nothing new that was outside the scope of his existing duties. He added that no state of emergency had been imposed and that there would be no dissolution of parliament or the consultative assembly (MPR).

Mr Abdurrahman’s executive order – read out by a palace aide – also got a puzzled and hostile reception from critics, several of whom dismissed it as psychological warfare and brinkmanship aimed at forcing them into a compromise before parliament meets tomorrow.

Legislators are expected to call for a special session of the MPR to start impeachment proceedings, with the likely backing of the military, whose commanders were conspicuous by their absence from the palace when Mr Abdurrahman’s announcement was made.

Also missing was Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose only statement yesterday was a call to her supporters to remain calm and not resort to violence.

But as political analyst Kusnanto Anggoro saw it, the President had weakened his position “by issuing such an unclear order, when he was expected to declare a state of emergency”.

MPR speaker Amien Rais said he saw the decision as “nothing significant, nothing special”.

Dr Amien was joined by parliament Speaker Akbar Tandjung in also brushing aside speculation that the move could be a precursor to a declaration of emergency rule in the next few days.

Other legislators said they would press ahead with moves to hold him accountable for corruption and incompetence. This despite the Attorney-General’s office formally announcing yesterday that Mr Abdurrahman had been cleared of involvement in two financial scandals that were a basis for his earlier censure by Parliament.

While lawmakers might have appeared nonchalant yesterday, there were fears that the political crisis could still turn bloody. Police have threatened to shoot troublemakers on sight and also warned of possible bomb attacks and mass violence in the capital and other areas when parliament meets.

Said Jakarta police spokesman Anton Bahrul Alam: “We have all been put on high-alert status. There is a real danger that things can go out of hand.”

The comments to PDI-P supporters yesterday by Ms Megawati – who has spurned Mr Abdurrahman’s peace plan that would put her in charge of the day-to-day running of the government – were made against the backdrop of violent attacks in East Java by the President’s supporters.

But elsewhere there was calm, with little indication that people were affected by the announcement. It was also business as usual in Jakarta, despite the presence of security forces and armoured cars. There was also no indication of an exodus of ethnic-Chinese Indonesians and the expatriate community.

President’s Executive Order

“CONSIDERING the emergency political situation that we are facing because of the existence of controversies over the possibility of the holding of the Special Session of the Indonesian People’s Consultative Assembly, and the possibility of the issuance of a Presidential Decree, herewith, I order the Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs to take necessary special actions and steps, by coordinating with all elements of the security forces, to overcome the crisis and uphold order, security and the law as quickly as possible.”
– The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

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