Security forces in Indonesia on standby alert

JAKARTA, Reuters

Indonesia’s security forces put on a fresh show of force outside parliament on Tuesday in readiness for a potentially bloody showdown between the country’s top Legislature head and President Abdurrahman Wahid.

A police spokesman said that security forces had drawn up plans to evacuate members of the supreme People’s Consultative Assembly (MPH) if violence erupted during an impeachment hearing scheduled for August 1.

But the showdown could come as early as Friday with Wahid, who says he will not stand down, threatening to declare a state of emergency and assembly members vowing to respond by launching an immediate impeachment hearing over his chaotic 21-month rule.

About 6,000 police and soldiers were deployed at parliament on Tuesday amid growing fears that a showdown on Friday could trigger protest violence. Thousands of troops were on high alert.

Wahid, some of whose supporters have pledged to die for him, has threatened to declare a state of emergency at 6 p.m. on Friday and call an early election if his enemies push ahead with the planned Aug. 1 special session of the MPR.

Two unexplained bomb blasts have injured several people in recent days.

The reaction of Wahid’s supporters, who number millions and could take to the streets, remains a source of deep concern in the world’s fourth most populous country.

Jakarta Police spokesman Anton Bahrul Alam said security forces were ready to ensure the security of members of the MPR, which includes parliament’s 500 legislators, by evacuating them by helicopter and police convoy if the complex was threatened.

“The head of the parliament and the MPR as well as the president and the vice president will be evacuated by helicopter,” Alam told Reuters.

“For the rest of the legislators, we will guard their vehicles as we move them to a different location.”

All members will be moved to the Jakarta and national police headquarters, a few kilometers (miles) from parliament.

Wahid, meanwhile, repeated his refusal to quit.

“There is no such word as resign in my dictionary, I must stay on until 2004,” Wahid told local officials in the North Sulawesi capital of Manado on Tuesday.

But most analysts expect him to be dumped whenever the MPR convenes.