Mon, 11 Jun 2001

Abdurrahman firm on not stepping down from post

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid insisted on Sunday he would not resign before the end of his term in 2004 even if the military turned its guns on the presidential palace.

A defiant Abdurrahman challenged the military and police to try to use force to oust him, which he said would not change his position in the least.

"They can point their guns and shoot at the palace ... what I'm doing is maintaining the unity of the state and I will not hesitate to deal with violators of the Constitution," the President said after attending dawn prayer at a mosque near his residence in Ciganjur, South Jakarta, on Sunday.

Comparing himself to former president Sukarno, who he said faced the same adversity, Abdurrahman maintained that he would be as "brave" as Indonesia's founding president.

"At that time, he (Sukarno) talked to the TNI (the Indonesian Military) and said: 'Go ahead, you can shoot me because I have been chosen by the people,'" Abdurrahman remarked.

"I will follow in his footsteps. I will be no less brave than Bung Karno."

Abdurrahman is desperately attempting to maintain his beleaguered presidency. The showdown is expected to climax in August when the People's Consultative Assembly convenes a special session to seek his accountability.

If his accountability is rejected, the Assembly could revoke the presidential mandate it gave to Abdurrahman and hand the presidency to Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Abdurrahman reiterated on Sunday that he would accept the convening of the special session as long as the Assembly did not demand his accountability.

"They can hold the Assembly special session, but it should not be to ask for my accountability... only if we used the parliamentary system could my accountability be demanded. Currently we adhere to a presidential system," he said.

"I will remain (in office) until Oct. 5, 2004. I will step down when the time has come," Abdurrahman added.

The President said he would continue to offer a political compromise to all parties before the special session, and called on other national leaders to be patient in dealing with the current political crisis.

He revealed that he had ordered his ministers "to go back and forth to all political leaders" to seek a compromise.

"I call on everybody, including Amien, Mega, Akbar and Hamzah Haz to be patient. In such a political situation disagreements always occur, so we just have to look on the bright side," the President said.

Abdurrahman was referring to Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri, Golkar Party chairman Akbar Tandjung, United Development Party (PPP) chairman Hamzah Haz and National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman Amien Rais.

Later in the day Hamzah Haz welcomed the President's remarks, saying that Abdurrahman had begun to take positive steps toward dealing with the special session and that there was always a chance for compromise.

"The President has shown his good intentions. I just hope that he will be consistent," Hamzah said, adding that he is waiting for the ministers to begin discussing possible political compromises.

"Besides, during the special session we are not going to talk about problems other than the two financial scandals so it should be OK. It (the session) is not going to be about the government's performance," he remarked.

Abdurrahman's alleged involvement in a Rp 35 billion scandal involving a foundation at the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) and a US$2 million "gift" from the sultan of Brunei was the catalyst for the censure process in the House of Representatives, which culminated in the calling of a special session. (dja)