Sat, 04 Aug 2001

Gus Dur back home to fight for democracy, human rights

JAKARTA (JP): Former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid arrived home on Friday after a medical check-up in the United States, with a stronger commitment to fight for democracy and human rights protection following his ouster two weeks ago.

Abdurrahman who arrived along with former first lady Sinta Nuriyah and their daughter Yenny Zannuba Chafsoh Rachman on Singapore Airlines flight SQ154 were greeted by scores of supporters at the VIP lounge of the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.

One of his supporters placed a flower garland around his neck while others, including dozens of Nadhlatul Ulama's security guards, held banners, reading Selamat datang guru bangsa (Welcome home the nation's guru) and Selamat datang President RI (Welcome home the President of Republic of Indonesia).

Among those who greeted the former president and his entourage were his younger brother Shalahuddin Wahid, caretaker foreign minister Alwi Shihab, National Awakening Party (PKB) secretary- general Muhaimin Iskandar and scores of PKB legislators.

Abdurrahman's spokesman Wimar Witoelar said that according to results of the medical tests conducted by the Johns Hopkins hospital in Baltimore, the former president was declared in a good health and, therefore, he was allowed to return home to resume his activities as usual.

Later at his residence in Ciganjur, South Jakarta, Abdurrahman said he would help uphold democracy and human rights without violence and condemnation.

"Let's keep this house peaceful and not make it a place to condemn any person or any side," he said after Friday prayers at a mosque near his residence.

He called on his supporters and prodemocracy activists to remain patient because their struggle for democracy and human rights protection would take some time.

"The end of our struggle is still far off and we should not enter fights hastily and emotionally," he said.

The People's Consultative Assembly's Special Session on July 23 revoked Abdurrahman's presidential mandate for alleged violations of the Constitution and installed his vice president Megawati Soekarnoputri in his place.

Following the Friday prayers, Abdurrahman met his supporters who had gathered since Friday morning at the Proclamation Monument in Central Jakarta to hear his political speech.

Hundreds of people, activists and students applauded while a group of Chinese Indonesians performed Barongsai (lion dance) to welcome Abdurrahman's presence in the area.

Abdurrahman said that he was very disappointed with a four- star general who deceived him saying that a letter had been delivered, ordering him to leave the presidential palace.

"After I checked, the instruction was a lie," he said.

Shalahuddin said that following Abdurrahman's downfall, he would have ample time to help create a democratic society outside the bureaucracy.

"Gus Dur is an influential figure and it may be better for him to play his role outside the bureaucracy to fight for a democratic society," he said.

A.M. Fatwa, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, applauded Abdurrahman's plan to fight for democracy and human rights from outside the bureaucracy.

"It's an appropriate step compared with what he did during his 18-month tenure inside the bureaucracy," he said.

Fatwa who once proposed Gus Dur to step down voluntarily long before the Special Session, regretted that Gus Dur failed to implement the democracy and respect human rights that he had fought for, long before he was elected as president in 1999.

"It is regretful that during his tenure, his policies had frequently been in contradiction to his good ideas on democracy and human rights before his election," he said. (rms)