Tue, 26 Sep 2000

House leaders undecided over new police boss

JAKARTA (JP): House of Representatives leaders failed to make a united stand on Monday on whether to endorse or reject President Abdurrahman Wahid's appointment of Gen. Suryo Bimantoro as the new National Police chief in place of Gen. Rusdihardjo.

A meeting of House leaders was called on Monday in the middle of a recess to discuss the constitutionality of the change in view of a new ruling which states that the appointment of the National Police chief must first be endorsed by the House.

The President chose to ignore the ruling, enacted by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) in August, and installed Bimantoro on Saturday.

Many in the House view his move as being in contempt of the law and the House but others have accepted his decision because the House has not yet enacted the consultative mechanism on the appointment of the National Police chief.

House Speaker Akbar Tandjung told reporters after the four- hour meeting that it was agreed that the legislature could not prevent the President from doing what he did on Saturday.

He said there was an agreement that the President should have abided by the MPR ruling and consulted the House, he said. But the leaders were divided on what course to pursue next.

"The (leadership) meeting did not have the capacity to decide whether to reject or endorse. This matter will be discussed in a plenary session of the House next month," Akbar, who is also chairman of the Golkar Party, said.

He added that the House would probably be forced to take a vote on the issue.

Akbar said the House leadership would also question Abdurrahman at the next consultative meeting next month.

MPR Speaker Amien Rais accused the President of breaching the decree on Saturday and has threatened to call for a special session of the Assembly to demand his accountability.

Calling for an MPR special meeting is widely seen as a process to impeach the president.

None of the House leaders present at the meeting on Monday, however, took up Amien's proposal.

There was no mention of an MPR special session, Akbar said.

Akbar said the President had informed him beforehand of the plan to install Bimantoro on Saturday because the country was facing an "emergency" situation whereby international pressure was mounting for Indonesia to resolve problems in Atambua.

Atambua is the East Nusa Tenggara town where three United Nations relief workers were killed by a mob of East Timorese refugees early this month. Indonesia has since come under international criticism for failing to provide security for the UN workers.

Akbar said the President went ahead with Bimantoro's appointment on Saturday in spite of his request to delay it.

"We hope it will never happen again," he said.

The President, who left on another foreign trip on Monday, said he fired Rusdihardjo for failing to act on his order to arrest the son of former president Soeharto and an Islamic leader "to prevent more bombings in the future".

Police have said that they do not have sufficient legal ground to carry out the President's instruction to arrest Tommy Soeharto and Habib Ali Baagil. (edt/jun)