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Defiant Wahid brushes off impeachment attempt JAKARTA - Struggling to hold together the world's fourth most-populous nation, Indonesian's beleaguered president said he is confident he will defeat any effort to impeach him over financial scandals. In an interview with The Associated Press, President Abdurrahman Wahid said he had lobbied individual lawmakers and was prepared to fight an impeachment measure in court, if needed.
Wahid was elected after the downfall of Indonesia's former dictator Suharto. With the end of Suharto's iron-fisted rule, ethnic conflicts have exploded across the 3,200-mile-long collection of islands. Guerrilla wars for independence are raging in two provinces. In the restive province of Aceh, eight more people have died in the fighting, officials said Tuesday. Two helicopters carrying the Indonesian energy minister and his entourage were slightly damaged by gunfire, but no one was hurt.
The widespread unrest and political scandals have led to street demonstrations for and against Wahid's 17-month-old administration. On Tuesday, a crowd of about 1,700 gathered at Parliament in support of Wahid.Many analysts have raised fears about the street clashes between rival sides and have said Wahid's days are numbered.But speaking at his state palace, which was heavily guarded and ringed with razor wire, Wahid claimed the opposition against him was limited to the leaders of some rival political factions and would eventually fizzle.
"They cannot get rid of me," he said. "Please remember there is a third branch of the government - the judiciary." Last month, parliament issued a memorandum censuring Wahid over his alleged involvement in two multimillion-dollar scandals. The censure started a long process toward his possible impeachment by a special session of Indonesia's highest legislative body. On Tuesday, a court sentenced the chief of the country's Bulog food distribution agency to two years in jail in one of the scandals. Sapuan, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, was convicted of ordering the illegal transfer of about $3.5 million to Suwondo, Wahid's former masseur.
On Tuesday, Wahid stressed he had done nothing wrong. In any case, a president could only be impeached if he had committed treason. "But I didn't do that," he said, adding that he would present a detailed rebuttal of the allegations in parliament soon. "If (the censure memorandum) is studied by a logical man, a reasonable man, then they will see that there is no argument at all for putting me to the special session."
However, on Tuesday political party leaders in the parliament raised the temperature by agreeing to draft a second censure memorandum. Against a hostile parliament, Wahid's fate appears more and more to rely upon the support of Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who controls Indonesia's largest party. Until now she had remained silent on the matter, even though her close aides have publicly called on the president to quit.
Wahid denied rumors and media reports of a rift with Megawati. Their working relationship was good, although they had differed on some issues, he said. "We are good partners," he said. "On the main things, we see eye-to-eye." He said she was a competent administrator and would be a potential head of state "if there is a constitutional change" or "through an election." "But not now, because I am the president now," he said.
Wahid brushed aside the importance of protests against his presidency, saying that the biggest so far had attracted only 10,000 people out of total population of 210 million. "I have to repeat again and again, it's a minority," he said. "It is nothing. The fact they cannot storm the palace is clear." The turmoil in Indonesia has raised fears about the security of the country. Piracy in the Malacca Straits, one of the world's busiest shipping routes, has shot up from two hijackings in 1999 to 75 in 2000. On Thursday, a 980-ton freighter carrying tin and white pepper was hijacked, officials said Tuesday.



Posted in Politics @ 21 March 2001 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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