- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 22, 2001


JAKARTA, Indonesia — Parliament opened formal impeachment proceedings against President Abdurrahman Wahid yesterday, with the leader of parliament predicting Mr. Wahid would be booted out of office Tuesday.
Amien Rais, chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly, or parliament, made the prediction of the president's imminent ouster just 21 months after parliament picked him as the country's first democratic head of state in four decades.
If impeached, Mr. Wahid would be replaced immediately by Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Indonesia's founding leader, Sukarno. Ironically, Sukarno was impeached in the mid-1960s.
Although politically isolated, Mr. Wahid remained defiant and declared on national television that he would boycott the hearing, which he described as unconstitutional and treasonous.
There were no signs of trouble in the capital or elsewhere, but Mr. Wahid warned legislators that his ouster could trigger violent protests.
An overwhelming majority of assembly members voted to proceed with the impeachment process with or without the cooperation of Mr. Wahid, who has repeatedly threatened to declare emergency rule and dissolve the assembly.
"Wahid has no chance at all," said Arifin Panigoro, a senior member of Mrs. Megawati's party, which is Indonesia's largest political group.
The assembly elected Mr. Wahid over Mrs. Megawati in October 1999 even though Mrs. Megawati's party won the largest block of seats in a popular election.
Mr. Wahid, a nearly blind Muslim scholar, initially enjoyed wide support amid hopes that he would deliver economic and democratic reforms after years of corrupt dictatorship.
However, relations quickly soured with lawmakers, who accused the 61-year-old leader of erratic policies and claimed that he was too frail after a series of strokes.
Corruption continued to flourish, and Mr. Wahid also failed to quell communal and separatist conflicts that have killed thousands across the sprawling archipelago.
Moves to impeach Mr. Wahid began last year after he was accused of involvement in two multimillion-dollar graft scandals. He denied any wrongdoing and was cleared by police and prosecutors.Legislators, however, pressed ahead with their campaign against him and censured the president three times this year as a prelude to formal impeachment proceedings.
Hundreds of troops and police guarded the parliament building as the 700-member assembly voted 592-5 yesterday to move against Mr. Wahid.The rest either abstained or refused to attend in protest, including members of Mr. Wahid's minority National Awakening Party.
In another development, two churches were hit by bomb blasts east of the Indonesian capital today, witnesses said, including one where Mass was being celebrated. At least 19 persons were hurt, including a man who lost a leg.

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