Tue, 14 Nov 2000

'Opposition is unconstitutional'

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid called on the nation on Monday to stick to the Constitution amid growing demands for his resignation.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) summit in Doha, the President said he was not turning a deaf ear to the demands, but reminded that they should be raised in accordance with the existing laws.

"The law stipulates that the only party allowed to investigate a president is the People's Consultative Assembly through a special session recommended by the House of Representatives in a plenary session," said President Abdurrahman.

The President made the statement in response to repeated calls for his resignation at home. About 1,000 protesters rallied at the House compound on Monday demanding that Abdurrahman resign for failing to fix the country's ailing economy and to end bloody separatist and sectarian conflicts.

A group of legislators who met in an informal meeting sponsored by former coordinating minister for economy, finance and industry Kwik Kian Gie on Saturday were the latest prominent politicians to call for the President's exit.

Abdurrahman said he would not go further in responding to domestic pressure for fear that it would only worsen the situation.

Earlier in the day, the President said his possible resignation depended much on the evaluation by the House of his leadership and of the government's performance.

A palace spokesman, Yahya Cholil Staquf, who accompanied the President during his visit in Doha, said Gus Dur, as the President is called, wanted the demand to be processed properly in accordance with the Constitution to avoid unnecessary unrest in the society.

He said the President would welcome whatever was the result of the House's evaluation on the government's performance.

"The President wants the House and all sides to use measurable criteria to judge how the government fares," Antara quoted Yahya as saying.

According to the President, many of the criticisms surfaced without concrete indicators, turning a blind eye to the government's successes, especially in export as recognized by the IMF.

"Many people do not know about the achievement because it is never shared with the public," said Yahya.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a 50-minute meeting with Gus Dur outside the OIC meeting on Sunday that he could understand the numerous problems his government was facing at home.

Yahya said the two figures were involved in a serious discussion on numerous problems, including violent conflicts in Aceh, Irian Jaya and Maluku and East Timorese refugees.

Yahya said Annan also appreciated the progress achieved by Gus Dur's government in the economic field.

"You're doing very well," Yahya quoted Annan as saying.

In Jakarta, House Speaker Akbar Tandjung asserted that the conclusion that was reached in the legislators's meeting did not represent the House of Representatives because all participants spoke in their personal capacity.

"The meeting's results, including the call for Gus Dur's resignation, do not represent the House. They are the thoughts of citizens," said Akbar, also chairman of the Golkar Party.

He said however the call could be channeled to the House through their respective factions in the legislative body.

He said the House would decide its stance whether to accept or reject the result of Saturday's meeting after receiving and discussing it in a plenary session.

Abdul Kholiq Achmad, secretary of the National Awakening Party (PKB) faction at the House, dismissed the call for the president's resignation, saying the meeting was used by "political opportunists" to topple the legitimate government.

"It's not new. It just confirms our earlier assumption that it is just a solid attempt by certain politicians to topple the government," he said.

He conceded the meeting was sincerely arranged by Kwik for good purposes, but then it was engineered by certain politicians, such as House Deputy Speaker A.M. Fatwa, legislator Alvin Lie -- both from the National Mandate Party (PAN) -- and Golkar legislator Ade Komaruddin, to air demands that have been frequently made by other politicians.

He said PKB regretted that the meeting had failed to provide alternative solutions to all the problems facing the nation, saying the President's resignation would not settle the issues.

"The meeting should have given a new hope for people, but it did not," he remarked.

Abdul Kholiq hoped that Kwik and other legislators from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) should bear in mind how "the axis force", an alliance of several minority Muslim parties, rejected the nomination of their leader Megawati Soekarnoputri in last year's presidential election. (rms/jun)