Quick impeachment for Wahid urged

JAKARTA, Indonesia, AP

A group of lawmakers demanded on Friday that impeachment proceedings against President Abdurrahman Wahid be brought forward, as protests and violence flared in several troublespots in the country.

The national assembly is scheduled to meet on Aug. 1 to judge Wahid over corruption allegations. He is also accused in the impeachment of not fixing Indonesia’s crisis-ridden economy and stopping rising unrest.

At a news conference, senior legislators from six major parliamentary factions said Wahid was becoming increasingly erratic in his bid to cling to power. They want the impeachment hearing brought forward to early July and are pushing the assembly to agree to their demand.

Assembly chairman Amien Rais gave guarded support to the call, saying the group appeared to be speaking for a majority of lawmakers.

“If they formally proposed it … I can do nothing but accept,” Rais said.

However, earlier demands for an accelerated impeachment process have foundered without the support of Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri. She stands to replace Wahid if he is ousted, but she has so far resisted calls to hasten Wahid’s downfall, saying that a leadership change must be made strictly in line with the constitution.

She has made no comment about the latest demand by the legislators.

In more unrest, police fired warning shots on Friday to disperse thousands of workers near Bandung and Indonesia’s second largest city of Surabaya. It was the third straight day of violent protests against new labor laws. There were immediate reports of injuries.

Separatist and communal fighting left at least 19 people dead in Aceh and Maluku provinces, where hundreds have been killed this year.

Wahid’s opponents say he is unable to quell the bloodshed.

Instead of bowing to their demands that he quit, Wahid has raised the stakes in Indonesia’s political crisis. Earlier this week, he authorized state prosecutors to investigate graft allegations against some key political opponents who have accused him of corruption.

After attending Islamic prayers in Yogyakarta, Central Java, on Friday, Wahid said: “I will not step down. If I resign, several regions will break away (from Indonesia).”

The president has twice reshuffled his Cabinet this month, dismissing key ministers as well as the national police chief. Wahid also has been accused of planning a shakeup of the military’s top brass and of wanting to declare emergency rule and dissolve the legislature before lawmakers can vote him out of office.

“The president is cornered and will do anything,” said Alvin Lie, a legislator, who has spearheaded anti-Wahid campaign.