Sun, 01 Oct 2000

Gus Dur tells students to march to Cendana

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid has encouraged students once again to march to Soeharto's residence on Jl. Cendana if they are not happy with the court's decision to drop the corruption case against the former president.

Speaking to reporters on the flight from Brasilia to Buenos Aires, Abdurrahman stressed, however, that students must march peacefully and orderly and refrain from destructive acts of violence, Antara reported on Saturday.

The President was widely criticized at home when he made the same suggestion the first time in Caracas on Tuesday evening that students who wanted to see Soeharto tried in court should not be prevented from getting close to the home of the former tyrant.

Many blamed his Caracas remarks for the violent clashes between students, pro-Soeharto supporters and the police near Jl. Cendana only hours after the South Jakarta District Court dropped the corruption case on Thursday.

The court reached its decision after an independent team of doctors testified that the 79-year-old Soeharto was "permanently" too ill to stand trial. Soeharto was accused of embezzling US$590 million of state funds in his capacity as chairman of seven charitable organizations.

Abdurrahman, who has also made public his contempt of the court ruling, said on Friday that the military and the police should not prevent demonstrators from marching to Jl. Cendana as long as they do not endanger Soeharto's life.

The President, however, condemned Thursday's anarchy, including the burning of military vehicles.

"I've repeatedly stated that we should respect the state apparatus, particularly the security apparatus, like the Indonesian Military and the National Police," he said.

Police said one person was killed and dozens others injured in Thursday's clashes.

Abdurrahman, who is on a tour of Latin American countries and Canada, denied that his request to the Supreme Court to replace all the judges handling Soeharto's case amounted to an intervention in the judiciary.

"This is not an intervention. This is a presidential request, which, if not heeded, will anger the people," he was quoted as saying by Antara.

He said the people's outrage was most visibly expressed by the violence which erupted on Thursday after the court's verdict.

He said he had asked leaders of the Supreme Court to appoint "clean and honest judges who cannot be bought" to handle Soeharto's case at the High Court.

The government has stated its intention to appeal the district court's decision to drop Soeharto's corruption case.

Earlier on Friday, during a meeting with the Indonesian community in Brasilia, the President disclosed that he had asked the police to issue a warrant to arrest pro-Indonesia East Timor militia leader Eurico Guterres.

"Eurico will soon be arrested. We have already established what crimes he has committed," he said without elaborating.

His statement was one step further to the one he made a day earlier in that Eurico would be arrested if he had committed a crime.

Eurico's arrest, he said, was crucial to show the world Indonesia's commitment to resolve the East Timor problem. (emb)