Hoping to save himself, Indonesian ruler suspends assembly, but lawmakers, army vow defiance
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Hoping to block his imminent impeachment, Indonesia’s embattled President Abdurrahman Wahid issued a decree early Monday to suspend the legislature. The move appeared to immediately backfire.
The security minister said Wahid’s call to take apart the legislature was tantamount to calling a state of emergency – something the president had long threatened to do. In his decree, Wahid called on the army and police to maintain law and order and to prevent his impeachment hearing from proceeding later in the day.
But assembly chairman Amien Rais said the decree would be ignored and Wahid would be removed, probably within hours, and replaced with Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Jakarta police chief Maj. Gen. Sofyan Jacob said security forces would also defy Wahid’s orders for them to stop his impeachment.
At least two government ministers quit to protest the decree. Security Minister Agum Gumelar and State Secretary Marzuki Darusman – two of Wahid’s most senior aides – resigned, and Megawati’s aides claimed that six other ministers had also quit.
Gumelar, a retired general, also said the military did not support the decree, which he called the same as an emergency declaration. Supreme Court Chief Justice Bagir Manan said Wahid’s move was illegal.
Wahid’s announcement on national television, just after 1 a.m. Monday, followed a day of high drama in the capital. Two churches were bombed Sunday, injuring more than 70 people and nearly 100 tanks and armored vehicles rolled past the presidential palace in a show of force by the army.
Rais predicted that the constitutional crisis that has gripped the world’s fourth most populous country for almost a year would soon be over.
”It is a foregone conclusion that Mr. Wahid will be dismissed” Monday and automatically replaced by his main rival, Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, he said.
The embattled president has warned that moves to oust him could trigger protests, riots and provoke several provinces to break away from the troubled Southeast Asian nation.
A formal statement, read by an aide on behalf of the nearly blind president, called for an anti-corruption drive and demanded the breakup of the Golkar Party – formerly the political machine of ex-dictator Suharto and now a major force in the campaign to oust Wahid. He also called for new elections to be held within the year.
On Sunday more than 2,000 troops and tanks assembled in a downtown park near the palace. It was one of the biggest displays of military might seen in years in the capital of Jakarta.
While some vehicles had loaded .50-caliber machine guns pointing in the direction of the palace, just 300 yards away, the commander of the army’s elite strategic reserve, Lt. Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu, said it was a routine exercise and not meant to intimidate Wahid.
The president’s earlier threats to declare a state of emergency and dissolve the national assembly if its members continued to push for his removal had angered the military.
Moves to impeach Wahid were launched last year after he was accused of involvement in two multimillion-dollar graft scandals. He was cleared by police and prosecutors.
Legislators, however, pressed ahead with their campaign and censured the president three times this year as a prelude to an impeachment that is similar to a vote of no confidence. He is also accused of failing to resolve an economic crisis and end separatist violence that threatens to tear apart the nation of 210 million.
The assembly elected Wahid over Megawati in October 1999.
Megawati, who leads Indonesia’s largest political party, rarely speaks to reporters and made no comment.
She is the daughter of Sukarno, the country’s founding leader and former president. Sukarno was dumped as president after he was impeached by the assembly amid political turmoil in 1966. He was replaced by the dictator Suharto, who ruled until 1998. Sukarno died in 1970 under house arrest.
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