Showdown in Jakarta
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesia is bracing for yet another political showdown in the drawn-out power struggle between parliament and president.
The two sides have drawn clear lines of engagement. Tens of thousands of supporters of Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid flooded Jakarta for a massive prayer rally.
The rally came ahead of the expected issue by opposition lawmakers of a second censure of Wahid, dragging the president one step closer to impeachment.
Fears of mob violence prompted security forces to deploy hundreds of anti-riot troops and a fleet of armored vehicles to whisk lawmakers out of harm's way.
Jakarta waits for the worst
It was Wahid himself who cast the dye at a recent conference for international investors.
"The parliament has been irresponsible to the point that it tries to make the president fall down, unfairly at that. Now the people called my supporters are going to Jakarta. Yesterday the registration came to 400,000 people from all over Java," he told a visibly shocked audience.
"You can see that this is a nationwide rebellion against the ways of parliament which is doing its worst now," he said.
Thousands of die-hard supporters are responding to that call, forming so-called "suicide squads" intended to defend Wahid to the death.
Wiro Sugiman spent weeks training a group called "Defenders of Truth" in the Wahid stronghold of East Java. Training involved everything from martial arts and knife fighting to prayer and fasting.
He says his followers are regular people, rising up against parliament's attack on Wahid now trickling in to Jakarta to face off with the president's opponents.
"We want to keep Gus Dur as president," he says, using Wahid's popular nickname. "We are prepared to take any action."
Lawmakers at the ready
Opposition law makers are also well prepared.
Alvine Lie, one of President Wahid's most vociferous critics, now walks into parliament with a bullet-proof vest on his chest and a 22-caliber gun at his hip, often flanked by 2 grim-looking bodyguards. "Some of us are armed," he says of his peers in parliament. "Just to be on the safe side. It's better to be safe than sorry."
Recently, Lie was cornered inside an elevator and threatened by several zealous Wahid supporters, all within the grounds of the parliament complex.
"Fortunately, I had my 2 guards there. I had my gun, and I had my digital recorder so while they were abusing me verbally, I recorded that and as they realized that I was recording they stopped," he says with a smile.
"As long as they are only abusing me verbally, I can take it. It's the right of the people. But if they touch me physically, then I have to defend myself."
Amid threats of violence, Wahid's efforts to gather national leaders in a televised appeal for unity fell flat. Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Speaker of the House of Representatives Akbar Tandjung both rejected the offer.
Despite the lack of support, Wahid remains adamant that he will not resign.
See related sites about Asia
|Back to the top|