Fri, 23 Feb 2001

ICG spells out trouble for RI

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid is not likely to escape unscathed from current attempts by his opposition to unseat him, but whatever transpires from this power struggle, violence looms large over Indonesia, the International Crisis Group says.

"Gus Dur (Abdurrahman)'s survival with his presidential powers intact is unlikely," the Brussels-based research group said in its latest report on Indonesia entitled "Indonesia's Presidential Crisis".

"Even if this were to happen, he could probably not restore his moral and political authority. Based on past experience, there is little reason to expect that a new Gus Dur government would be more cohesive and effective than the old one," the ICG said.

The group, chaired by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans who is in town this week, postulated four scenarios arising from the battle between the President and his foes in the House of Representatives. All four have the potential for setting off violent clashes between his supporters and those who oppose him, it said.

The first is for his impeachment by the People's Consultative Assembly, where his position is no longer tenable, and for Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri to take over.

This scenario alone raises the possibility of clashes between supporters of the two leaders.

The report said that were Gus Dur to resign before the impeachment, he could help ensure a smooth transition and reduce the likelihood of an ugly conflict. "However, Gus Dur is famous for his stubbornness, and those who know him well believe that he is unlikely to follow this course."

A second scenario is one where the President transferred executive tasks to the Vice President, or by citing his ailing health, declared himself non-active and handed over full presidential power to his deputy. "It is very unlikely that Gus Dur would accept either alternative at present but he may find one or the other more attractive if his position becomes more desperate during the coming months," the report said.

A third scenario is for the President to win over Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) in return for the majority of seats in his Cabinet. Since the coalition of his own Nation Awakening Party (PKB) with PDI Perjuangan still does not guarantee him enough support in parliament, he will have to solicit support from one or two other parties. "However, it is most unlikely that Megawati and her party would accept an arrangement that left Gus Dur in full control of the government."

The fourth scenario could emerge if the street conflicts between supporters of pro and anti-Gus Dur demonstrations that have erupted in East Java spread to other parts of the country.

"If the situation deteriorated badly, a fourth scenario could be envisaged in which the constitutional steps might be abandoned and an unconstitutional "Philippine" (Estrada-Arroyo) solution could be repeated in Jakarta."

This is the fourth ICG report on Indonesia this month. The earlier reports looked at the efforts to reform the National Police, Indonesia's failure to punish those responsible for gross human rights violations, and an opinion article by Gareth Evans warning Jakarta that it stood to lose a lot of international support and goodwill unless it pulled its act together.

In December, ICG published a report which looked at the violent sectarian conflict in Maluku. All five full reports are available at ICG's website at