Gus Dur to boycott impeachment session

President Abdurrahman Wahid remained in a defiant mood against moves to topple him, signalling yesterday that he intends to boycott impeachment proceedings against him at the national assembly (MPR) in August.

The comment, made through Defence Minister Mahfud M.D., will only serve to rile legislators and deepen the already-growing resentment against him – a sentiment reflected yesterday by the National Police, which locked horns with him after he moved to sack its commander.

In an unprecedented show of defiance, more than 8,000 police and military personnel gathered for a parade at Merdeka Square – within view of the palace – to show support for General Suroyo Bimantoro, who had been “deactivated” by Mr Abdurrahman last week.

A convoy of half a dozen armoured police trucks fitted with water cannon rolled along the main thoroughfare in front of the palace.

Minister Mahfud sought to downplay the standoff between Mr Abdurrahman and the police chief – who did not attend the parade – saying that it would be resolved “in one or two days”.

But he did give a glimpse of the problems ahead when he disclosed that Mr Abdurrahman planned to snub the MPR’s special session, in which impeachment now looks a certainty.

He said that Mr Abdurrahman was not obliged to give an accountability speech to the 700-member body, the country’s highest legislative body, because legislators had not clearly specified what aspects of the law he had violated.

Parliament had, over the last four months, issued two formal rebukes against him for graft and incompetence.

But the palace maintained that there were little grounds for the House to act, arguing that the Attorney-General’s Office had cleared the President of any involvement in the two financial scandals that were the basis of Parliament’s censures.

Legislators, responding to his “no-show” threat, warned that the President would be defying the very body that gave him the mandate to rule Indonesia.

Said Mr Alvin Lie of the Reform faction:

“He will be breaching the Constitution if he does not turn up and account for his 21 months in power … I hate to think that we will have to drag him down to the meeting. We have no choice but to do that if he continues to be intransigent. “Well-placed sources said the palace is upping the ante by resorting to a strategy of confrontation rather than one of appeasement.

Aside from sacking four Cabinet ministers last week, it is now reportedly preparing documents to target several of its adversaries on charges of corruption.

But the President’s immediate battle is with the police – something that could polarise the organisation and make it even harder for security forces to deal with unrest and protests.

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