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House defers, not defuses, row with President JAKARTA - The House of Representatives, under pressure to defuse tension with President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, has temporarily deferred further moves against the head of state as it begins a three-week recess on Tuesday.

Speaker Akbar Tandjung accepted three petitions from the floor on Monday -- two calling on the President to explain his reasons for firing two of his economic ministers in April, and a third, by Gus Dur's own National Awakening Party (PKB), calling on the House to let the matter rest.

Akbar said the three petitions would be dealt with after Aug. 16 when the House reconvenes. Also deferred to the next session are the inquiries into the "Bulog-gate" and "Brunei-gate" scandals, which have the potential to damage the President's reputation.

The decision virtually put on hold the row between the House and the President which has undermined Abdurrahman's political support ahead of the crucial meeting of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) next month. The House summoned the President on Thursday, using its interpellation right, to explain his decision to fire minister of investment and state enterprises Laksamana Sukardi and minister of industry and trade Yusuf Kalla.

Instead of an explanation, Gus Dur called the use of the interpellation motion as a betrayal of the 1945 Constitution. Gus Dur apologized to the House on Friday, not for attacking the House members a day earlier but for the impact that his action had caused.

In his letter to the House, he called for an end to the row in order to ease the political tension. He offered to meet with the House leaders in a closed door session to explain his decision to fire the two ministers. That the President's support in the 500-strong House is waning is clear from the 252 signatures from various factions that one petition managed to collect over the weekend.

"We accept the President's apology but insist he give an open explanation for the firing of the two economic ministers," read one of the two petitions critical of the President. The 252 legislators also demanded the President stop making controversial statements that could affect political and economic conditions in the country. The second petition, filed by the minority faction of Crescent Star Party (PBB), essentially carried the same message. A third petition was signed by 25 legislators, mostly from PKB, calling on the House to accept the President's apology to defuse the tension without any reservations.

Although the matter has been deferred, the sour feeling could still affect the atmosphere at the MPR session since the 500 House members make up most of the 700 MPR members. At the MPR session, slated to begin on Aug. 7, the President is due to present a progress report of his first 10 months in office. Gus Dur has accused the House members of using the interpellation right as part of a systematic campaign to unseat him in the run up to the MPR meeting. Ade Khomaruddin, the Golkar legislator behind the interpellation motion, dismissed the accusation on Monday but said the President must still explain himself.

"We will be consistent in sticking to our original demand that the President give evidence supporting his allegations against the two economic ministers for practices of corruption, collusion and nepotism," he said. Priyo Budi Santoso of Golkar also denied rumors of a conspiracy by politicians associated with the Muslim Students Association (HMI) against the President. "If we have been outspoken, we were doing it to control the government," he said.



Posted in Politics @ 25 July 2000 09:32 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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