Fwd (GLW): INDONESIA: Right moves against Wahid
alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun Feb 4 07:12:57 MST 2001
The following article appears in the current issue of Green Left Weekly
INDONESIA: Right moves against Wahid
BY MAX LANE
In an escalation of tensions between President Abdurrahman Wahid and
right-wing forces in the country's parliament, a full session of the DPR,
the Indonesian house of representatives, voted almost unanimously on
February 2 to accept a special committee report concluding that the
president was "involved" in two financial scandals.
The report said Wahid was involved in the release and use of funds from the
national food agency, BULOG, and in the receipt, outside official channels,
of monies from the Sultan of Brunei for humanitarian use in Aceh. The
report did not accuse Wahid of personal receipt or use of any of the funds
but rather of using improper administrative methods, thereby allowing close
associates to improperly use some of the money, amounting to thousands of
The National Awakening Party (PKB), which is linked to Wahid, walked out of
the DPR during the vote, claiming that the special committee had violated
several parliamentary rules.
The same evening the parliament voted to send a memorandum to the president
warning him over his transgressions. The decision came despite statements
from prominent Wahid opponent Amien Rais calling for tougher action,
including a special session of the MPR, the People's Consultative Assembly,
the only body with the power to withdraw Wahid's mandate as president.
The special committee to investigate Wahid was established by an alliance
of the Muslim right-wing Central Axis, which includes MPR chairperson Rais,
and Golkar, the party of former dictator Suharto, as part of a concerted
campaign to undermine Wahid and prepare the ground for his removal by the
At the same time as pursuing the president, Golkar and the Central Axis
have blocked investigations into the billion dollar scandals at the Bank
Bali and the improper release and use of bank recapitalisation funds,
scandals which have implicated their members and supporters in Indonesia's
Within the parliament, this campaign has received the tacit support of
vice-president Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of
Struggle (PDIP) and the Armed Forces/Police Fraction. Both the PDIP and the
military fraction voted for the memorandum to be sent to Wahid.
Sukarnoputri's short-term intentions remain unclear, however it seems
that it was her continued public support for Wahid that blocked any moves
towards a special session being called.
While a special session is now unlikely to be called any time soon, the
assembly's regular annual session is scheduled for November. It appears
likely that Golkar and the Central Axis are preparing for a move against
Wahid at that time.
Student right mobilises
While parliamentarians deliberated on the special committee report,
anti-Wahid groups staged demonstrations outside the parliament and the
presidential palace. Protester numbers peaked at 15,000 on January 29 and
10,000 on February 2.
These demonstrations were organised by the Student Executive Bodies, the
BEMs, from several universities in Java and Sumatra. These formal student
representative bodies have been dominated by the Muslim right wing since
before the fall of Suharto.
Most of the student groups which mobilised are connected to the Islamic
Student Associations, the HMI, or to organisations connected to the small
but well-organised Islamic fundamentalist Justice Party.
Both these networks are part of the Central Axis. There have also been
consistent reports that these student groups have received funds from
individuals linked to Golkar.
These are not the same students whose demonstrations forced Suharto's
resignation in May 1998, but are rather those who mobilised in support of
Suharto's chosen successor, BJ Habibie, in May and November 1998.
Wahid has been constrained in responding to the manoeuvres against him.
Although there is so far no evidence of corrupt personal enrichment by
Wahid, his willingness to wheel and deal with all kinds of shady
characters, as well as to appoint his relatives to various troubleshooting
jobs in government, leaves him open to attack.
Wahid has also consistently opposed any initiatives by his own supporters
to mobilise in his defence and is relying solely on his ability to
outmanoeuvre and trick his right-wing opponents. As a result, he has
continually retreated on promises of greater political reform, thereby
undermining the possibilities of building a democratic coalition.
During the last week, even the president's room to manoeuvre has been
restricted, as PDIP members in the parliament have lined up with Golkar,
the Central Axis parties and the military fraction. His chief ploy has been
to call a cabinet meeting, including Sukarnoputri, to provide a display of
The DPR, through its speaker, Golkar chairperson Akbar Tanjung, will send
the reprimand memorandum to Wahid in the next few weeks. Wahid will be
expected to respond.
At the same time, the DPR will send the attorney-general, former Golkar
head Marzuki Darusman, its assessment of where Wahid has broken the law, on
the expectation that he will be prosecuted in court.
Both these processes will provide opportunities for more mainstream media
attacks on Wahid, as well as for mobilisations by the student right.
Democratic forces disunited
Actions called by forces opposed to Golkar, the military and the Central
Axis on January 29 and February 2 were smaller overall than those of the
student right, partly because of a lack of the common platform needed for
them to call on wider public support.
The anti-rightist forces comprised three main blocs. The largest was direct
supporters of Wahid, members of organisations directly affiliated with the
PKB or with Nahdlatual Ulama, the religious organisation Wahid headed
before he assumed the presidency. They mostly come from East Java,
Nahdlatul Ulama's heartland.
One of these groups, the semi-militia group Banser, had said it would take
85,000 members to Jakarta but was told by Wahid to back off. These groups
have no platform other than defending Wahid and his presidency and
mobilised between 1000 and 2000 people separately from other anti-rightist
The second major anti-rightist bloc includes the several student
collectives which trace their origins to groups such as Forkot, which
played a major part in the anti-Suharto student movement of 1998. These
students have organised major actions demanding Suharto and other Golkar
leaders be brought to trial and that the military's role in politics be
brought to an end. These different collective networks mobilised
separately, each with slightly different demands, some concentrating on
Suharto, others on Golkar.
The third component was a contingent comprising the PRD, the Peoples
Democratic Party, and drawing on supporters from its associated mass
organisations, such as the Indonesian National Front for Workers Struggle
(FNPBI) and the National Student League for Democracy (LMND), as well as
from other groups, some associated with the Indonesian Islamic Student
These are part of the Anti-New Order People's Front, FRAROB, a national
network of city-based coalitions whose platform rests on four basic
demands: the establishment of a commission to investigate all human rights
violations and corruption since the 1965 establishment of the New Order
regime; the trial of all human rights violators before either a people's
court or an international tribunal; the nationalisation of the assets of
Suharto and his cronies; and the abolition of the political role of the
While the radical forces were smaller in number than the anti-Wahid
students, some of the latter briefly took up anti-Golkar slogans. In
Indonesia, it is difficult to maintain any public credibility on the
corruption issue while remaining silent on the massive corruption of Golkar
and the Suharto regime.
Golkar chairperson Akbar Tanjung responded to criticism by threatening to
take to court anybody who attacked Golkar.
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