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Gus Dur in E.Java, supporters plan more protests SURABAYA - Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid or Gus Dur flew into his political heartland of East Java on Friday to try to calm fanatical supporters who said they plan to continue their increasingly violent protests. The Muslim cleric made no comment on arrival in the provincial capital Surabaya, and headed straight for Pasuruan, about 735 km (480 miles) east of Jakarta and stronghold of a huge Islamic organisation founded by his grandfather.
His supporters have been incensed by last week's parliamentary censure of the frail president over two financial scandals and efforts by his political foes to instigate early impeachment hearings against him. "Today there will be more demonstrations," Choirul Anam, chief of the east Java branch of Wahid's National Awakening Party (PKB), told Reuters. Those protests are due to be held in towns some distance from Pasuruan where police set up heavy security.
A week of angry rallies in the densely-populated province have focused largely on the former ruling Golkar party which joined the majority in parliament in censuring Wahid last week and which has been critical of his erratic 15-month rule. "We have full security. But this is the home of Gus Dur's supporters, so I don't think bad things would happen to him," said East Java police spokesman Harunantyo, using Wahid's popular nickname.

Jawa holds key

The island of Java is home to about half of the 200 million Indonesian population and holds the key to power in the country now limping unsteadily into democracy after decades of despots. The violence in East Java has served as a warning of the bloodshed awaiting Indonesia if efforts to oust the Muslim cleric succeed. Some protesters have been wounded, but there have been no reports of deaths.
Most analysts expect Wahid to survive for now because of fears of violence if he loses office, the lack of a credible alternative and the complexity of the impeachment proceedings. Thousands of Wahid supporters have also rioted in various other towns across East Java in the past week, torching and trashing Golkar party offices. Golkar was the parliamentary vehicle of former President Suharto, whose long despotic rule collapsed amid social and economic mayhem in 1998.
Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab denied speculation the unrest was Wahid's attempt to strengthen his increasingly weak grip over the world's fourth most populous nation. "There is no such thing as a conspiracy by the president because if violence takes place in several places, that will backfire on his reputation as the holder of authority," Shihab told Reuters Television in Jakarta. "I think his visit today to East Java proves that he is consistent in his ideas and in his stand that democracy can go on but not in a violent way," he added.

Wahid's motives questioned

But some have attacked Wahid for failing to be firm enough in telling the protesters to calm down. Earlier this week the president said he could understand why his supporters were so angry over the parliamentary censure. "How can he as a president say that, despite what he said about trying to calm the situation, as if he was actually giving his blessing," Golkar legislator Ade Komarudin told Reuters.
"I'm not accusing him, but from what he said one can easily think that perhaps he was behind it all," he added. Police were also out in force in the streets of Jakarta early on Friday in anticipation of more protests in the capital, which has been comparatively quiet during the East Java unrest. Wahid's supporters are angered by attempts to bring forward a special session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), the top legislative body, to try to impeach Wahid following his censure by parliament.
A majority of parties in parliament have since blocked those efforts, preferring to follow the constitution which drags the possible impeachment process out over several months. One constitutional analyst estimated that even if everything fell into place, the earliest a special session of the MPRT could be set up would be August. Wahid has three months to reply to the censure over the scandals -- one involving the theft of $4.1 million from the state commodities regulator Bulog, the other his acceptance of a $2 million aid donation from the Sultan of Brunei.

Posted in Protests @ 09 February 2001 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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