Fri, 30 Jun 2000

House votes to question President

JAKARTA (JP): The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved on Thursday an interpellation motion to question President Abdurrahman Wahid over the recent dismissal of two of his economic ministers.

Preceded by a fierce debate, House members voted 332 to 63 to support the interpellation proposal in an open vote.

The supporters of the motion were predominantly legislators from the Golkar Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), whose cadres, Yusuf Kalla and Laksamana Sukardi, were dismissed late in April as minister of industry and trade and state minister of investment and state enterprises development respectively.

Those who were opposed were from the National Awakening Party (PKB) faction which Abdurrahman helped establish. Two tiny factions -- the eight-member Indonesian Unity and Nationalism (FKKI) faction and the five-member Love and Democratic Nation (PDKB) faction -- also challenged the proposal.

All 34 legislators from the Indonesian Military/Police faction, one PDI Perjuangan legislator and another from the People's Sovereignty faction chose to abstain in the three-hour plenary session which began at about 10 a.m.

A total of 431 legislators attended the session which was presided over by House Deputy Speaker A.M. Fatwa.

Commenting on the vote results, House Speaker Akbar Tandjung said the interpellation was aimed at cautioning Abdurrahman over his controversial statements.

"It's a warning to the President that the House is always watching his political policy," Akbar, who chairs the Golkar Party, said after the plenary session.

Akbar, who also was in support of the proposal, was quick to add that the interpellation had no political consequences for the President, and could not even lead to the President's ousting.

The House gave Abdurrahman until July 21 to reply before a plenary session.

Akbar said legislators who were dissatisfied with the President's explanation of the case could use a right to release opinion.

"The interpellation results will be brought before the General Session of the People's Consultative Assembly in August as part of our annual report," he said.

An exchange of arguments prevailed shortly after PDI Perjuangan legislator Didi Suprianto read out the interpellation proposal, which was originally initiated by Golkar.

Didi said House members did not intend to question the President's prerogative to dismiss his ministers but "to ask for an explanation and to question the inconsistent reasons of the dismissals".

Citing a House internal ruling, PKB legislator Yusuf Muhammad contended that asking for an explanation and questioning the President required different procedures. He said the topic of the interpellation should be restricted to the President's policies.

Another PKB legislator, A. Effendy Choirie, questioned the interpellation move since Abdurrahman revealed his reasons to dismiss Kalla and Laksamana during a closed-door meeting.

"What's the consequence for legislators who leak the results of a closed-door meeting which should have been kept secret," Effendy said.

Some legislators quoted Abdurrahman as saying that the two ministers were fired due to alleged corruption, collusion and nepotism practices.

As the debate dragged on, PDI Perjuangan faction chairman Arifin Panigoro asked A.M. Fatwa to suspend the session to allow all 10 factions in the House to lobby. No agreement was reached but to vote.

All PDI Perjuangan's 130 legislators, except Aberson Marle Sihaloho and Marah Simon Muhammad Syah, were in favor of the proposal. Aberson rejected the proposal while Marah abstained.

"I'm sure that my party would not impose any sanctions over my stance. We are a democratic party," the senior politician said.

But Arifin said punishment awaited the two legislators, which ranged from a warning to dismissal.

Later in the day, Akbar put pressure on the government over its decision to detain Bank Indonesia Governor Sjahril Sabirin, who has been named a suspect in the Bank Bali scandal.

"I find no reason to keep him in detention as he has not hampered the ongoing investigation. If he wanted to escape charges, he could have accepted the President's offer to become an ambassador," Akbar announced after visiting Sjahril for 20 minutes at the Attorney General's Office detention center.(jun/bby)