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Indonesia’s Wahid Says He’ll Stay

July 20, 2000

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Embattled President Abdurrahman Wahid insisted on Thursday he would finish his term, telling legislators they have no constitutional power to question him or kick him out of office.

Reacting to speculation that a group of lawmakers may try to impeach him, President Abdurrahman Wahid said he had no intention of being forced to quit before his five-year term ends in 2004.

``According to the Constitution, the president ... cannot be brought down or have action taken against him unless he commits treason,″ he told the 500-member parliament.

Members of the normally staid House of Representatives jeered Wahid after his state secretary said the leader did not recognize their right to hold him accountable on the day-to-day running of his Cabinet.

Wahid was summoned to parliament to answer allegations that he wrongly fired two economic ministers in April.

Thursday’s appearance was a prelude to a crucial session of the country’s highest legislative body _ the 700-member Peoples’ Consultative Assembly _ on Aug. 7, when Wahid is to deliver his state-of-the-nation speech.

Political analysts have speculated that some backers of deposed dictator Suharto and a grouping of Muslim hard-liners may try to impeach Wahid, citing a long-running separatist war in the west, religious conflict in the east and the weak economy.

The parliament, which for decades rubber-stamped Suharto’s authoritarian decrees, has been flexing its muscle since last year’s election, the first multiparty balloting in 44 years.

Suharto was forced out by riots and demonstrations in 1998.

Wahid became Indonesia’s first freely elected president in four decades when he was appointed by the assembly in October. At that time there were high hopes that the respected Muslim leader would deliver sweeping economic and political reforms after a generation of dictatorial rule and rampant corruption.

But Wahid’s unruly coalition government and unpredictable administrative style has marred his nine months in power, galvanizing political opponents.

Following Wahid’s opening remarks Thursday, the half-blind president handed over his speech to State Secretary Johan Effendy to read aloud.

He said the dismissal of the two Cabinet members, Trade and Industry Minister Yusuf Kalla and Investment Minister Laksamana Sukardi, was a political decision by the head of state, who was not obligated to explain his actions to the legislature.

This was greeted by booing from the deputies.

But near the end of the session, parliamentary speaker Akbar Tanjung said Wahid had indicated he will give further information about the dismissal of the two ministers in written comments to the legislature on Friday.

Indonesia’s battered currency, the rupiah, dropped nearly 2 percent immediately after the president’s defiant statement was read out. Traders said they were afraid of an escalation of tensions between the government and legislature.

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