Mon, 11 Jun 2001

Gus Dur seeks compromise to evade MPR impeachment

YOGYAKARTA (JP): Minister of Defense Mahfud M.D. sees a ray of hope in President Abdurrahman Wahid's last-ditch efforts to evade his possible impeachment, saying that major political parties have positively responded to the President's proposed dialog.

Mahfud said he had met Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung and the United Development Party (PPP) chairman Hamzah Haz, and both agreed to participate in a series of negotiations with representatives of the President starting on Monday.

"Pak Akbar has expressed his readiness to talk, and Pak Hamzah has many times said so. Basically the two figures share a similar thought with us that conflicts should be avoided," Mahfud told reporters at his house in Yogyakarta.

The President has appointed Coordinating Minister for Political, Social and Security Affairs Agum Gumelar, Coordinating Minister for the Economy Rizal Ramli, Attorney General Baharuddin Lopa and Mahfud to persuade leaders of major political parties to stop their plan to impeach him in the upcoming special session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).

Asked about the four officials' mission, Mahfud said they would simply convey the President's view that there was no strong reason to ask for his accountability.

According to Mahfud, Gus Dur, as the President is better known, now fully realizes that he has already lost support from the major political parties.

"But there is a strong impression that the Assembly finds it difficult to identify specific, justifiable reasons to impeach the President," Mahfud noted.

The President will be required to present his accountability speech before the Assembly's special session, slated to be held in early August.

If the Assembly rejects his accountability speech -- and most analysts believe the Assembly will do so -- Abdurrahman will officially be forced from office, and Indonesia will have a new President.

Nevertheless, Mahfud remains confident that the political leaders would prefer a political compromise, instead of an impeachment of the President that would lead to a prolonged conflict.

"Basically they all have similar views on how to avoid conflict," Mahfud said.

He played down harsh statements made by politicians at the Assembly and the House of Representatives (DPR) against the President in the mass media, saying that they were just for public consumption.

"It is common practice in politics. But in the end, just before the special session, hopefully there will be a compromise," Mahfud said.

Meanwhile, Antara reported that about 200 leaders of pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) in West Java urged the Assembly to cancel its special session for the sake of national unity.

"Conflicts, rivalries and all problems must be faced with wisdom," the ulemas said in their statement, as quoted by Antara.

According to Mahfud, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest organization that Abdurrahman used to chair for many years, was more realistic now than before.

Mahfud said he had met with NU chairman Hasyim Muzadi on Friday and concluded that the organization was very eager to maintain Gus Dur as the President, but also acknowledged Abdurrahman's weaknesses and was ready to accept the reality if the President's power were reduced.

However, Mahfud did not say how Abdurrahman's supporters, including NU members, would react if the President were impeached and eventually forced from office. He said that the matter could only be pursued within a parliamentary system (one that would require the position of prime minister and a parliament).

"Frankly speaking, they (NU) have suggested a parliamentary system and it apparently makes sense. However, it would have to be approved by the Assembly beforehand," Mahfud remarked. (44/prb)