From the April 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 04)


Wahid’s Woes

Debora Kuan, World Press Review assistant editor

The beleaguered Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid  may soon meet a fate similar to that of former President Joseph Estrada of the neighboring Philippines, who was impeached and ousted from power on corruption charges in January.

Calls for the infirm and nearly blind Gus Dur, as Wahid is known, to step down have mounted recently after the House of Representatives issued a memorandum against him over his alleged misuse of funds from both the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) and the Sultan of Brunei.

Wahid supporters attribute the memorandum and the chaotic street protests it sparked to the manipulations of former dictator Suharto’s party, Golkar. Jakarta’s independent weekly newsmagazine Tempo wrote (Feb. 20-26), “People consider the party still a part of the New Order, which threatens and could harm ongoing reforms.”

But the spate of troubles now facing Wahid go beyond mere party politics. A Feb. 6 editorial in New Delhi’s independent The Statesman said, “Violence relating to the separatist movement in oil-rich Aceh continues unabated, communal riots between Muslims and Christians are frequent, and militias run amok in Timor. All of which keeps international investors jittery.”

According to reports, the crisis of confidence surrounding Wahid is particularly upsetting to Indonesians, be- cause they saw Wahid as a man of moral authority, one who would clean up the system after Suharto’s corrupt regime.

The recent financial imbroglio has only added to discontent with his leadership, which has made little headway in solving Indonesia’s myriad social and economic problems. “To an increasing number of Indonesians, he has the appearance of a lame-duck leader, a man who squandered an opportunity to give the nation some semblance of stability and reform,” David Jenkins wrote in Melbourne’s centrist The Age (Feb. 6).

Commenting on the divisive pro-Wahid and anti-Wahid protests in East Java and other provinces, a Feb. 19 editorial in Jakarta’s independent Kompas expressed grave concern: “Could [these protests] be the seeds...of the increasing danger and widespread threat of national disintegration?”

One thing is certain, though. “Gus Dur cannot play around for the next three months....He has to make a full effort to improve his performance,” former Justice Minister Muladi said in the independent Jakarta Post. (Feb. 12).

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