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Indonesian President Denies Scandals

January 30, 2001

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Indonesia’s president on Tuesday denied any wrongdoing in two corruption scandals, and his defense minister warned the army might act to keep order amid anti-Wahid protests.

``I do not think there will be a coup,″ Defense Minister Mohamad Mahfud said. ``But if things descend into anarchy, I am worried that the military will take its own action.″

An investigation by Indonesian lawmakers accused President Abdurrahman Wahid of misleading the nation about his involvement in two multimillion dollar corruption scandals, according to a report of the probe leaked to reporters Tuesday.

Wahid has said he became embroiled in the scandals trying to help refugees in the war-torn province of Aceh.

The 36-page report acknowledged his ``good intention.″ But it said he must explain why he ``avoided legal procedures to raise money″ and why some funds ended up in the pockets of a number of presidential associates.

Wahid went on national television to deny wrongdoing and attacked the legality of the investigation.

``All the information about the two cases isn’t true. I’m not involved.″ Wahid said. ``I did not see any money.″

Wahid’s TV appearance came a day after police fired tear gas and warning shots at about 10,000 rock-throwing demonstrators who stormed the gates of Indonesia’s parliament demanding the president resign for alleged corruption.

The report charges that Wahid was involved in the illegal transfer of $4 million from the coffers of the state food agency, Bulog, by a former business associate of the president.

It also accused him of failing to officially declare a $2 million donation from Sultan Hasanal Bolkiah, the ruler of neighboring oil-rich Brunei.

The report appears to lack concrete evidence against Wahid, who is Indonesia’s first democratically elected head of state in four decades.

Nevertheless, it could bog down his 15-month-old administration, which has lost popularity by failing to push through democratic reforms and revive the moribund economy.

The 500-member parliament is slated to announce Thursday whether it will pursue Wahid’s case.

If it does, analysts say it would take at least five months of wrangling between the executive and the legislature before complex, vague and largely untried impeachment proceedings could be launched.

So far, the army generals have stayed out of the debate on Wahid’s future. Jakarta’s streets were quiet Tuesday with only two small protests.

Wahid, a nearly blind Muslim leader, has consistently scoffed at calls for him to resign and has refused to cooperate with the investigation against him.

The key to his survival is his popular deputy Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose party makes up the largest faction in the legislature.

Megawati, the daughter of Indonesia’s founding leader Sukarno, has not directly commented on Wahid’s plight. But in a positive sign for Wahid, her party’s executives ordered its members not to join in protests.

Update hourly