JAKARTA, Indonesia President Abdurrahman Wahid is facing the most severe political crisis of his 16 months in office with the battle to oust him over corruption charges boiling out of parliament and onto Indonesia’s streets in daily protests by angry students.
But the student movement has been stung by accusations that it is manipulated and perhaps even funded by the embattled president’s opponents, some of whom are seen as part of the “New Order” the regime of former dictator Suharto, who was toppled in May 1998 after massive student protests.
Anti-reform forces are widely believed to turn to people like Eggi Sudjana when they want to make a point on the streets. Mr. Sudjana, a 41-year-old lawyer, denies the student movement is organized but concedes he has advised students of the need to topple Mr. Wahid.
He chuckles at the suggestion he is one of the people behind the current demonstrations.
“If I am the one organizing, I have to be near them. I must be out there. I’m not. I just got back from Japan. I’m a busy man,” he said.
Student demonstrations peaked in late January and early February when several thousand protesters blocked a highway outside parliament as the House of Representatives discussed a committee report that implicated Mr. Wahid in two financial scandals.
“There are New Order forces manipulating the student movement, yes,” said Todung Mulya Lubis, a prominent lawyer. “I think a lot of people in parliament suddenly converted themselves to reform, when in the past they were part of the New Order… . I think it’s disgusting, actually.”
Offering little concrete evidence, the House report claimed Mr. Wahid was involved in the illegal transfer of $4 million from the state food agency called Bulog. It also accused him of failing to officially declare a $2 million donation from the sultan of neighboring Brunei.
As massive student protests continued, the House earlier this month voted to censure Mr. Wahid, a nearly blind centrist Muslim cleric who is known as Gus Dur. The formal memorandum effectively gives him four months to respond before parliament can begin impeachment proceedings.
“We see the indications that Gus Dur is implicated in KKN, so we ask him to resign,” said Andre Rosiade, 22, a Trisakti University accounting student. KKN are the Indonesian initials for corruption, collusion and nepotism, which was a standard rallying cry for demonstrators opposed to the Suharto regime.
Mr. Rosiade is president of the Trisakti University Student Executive Body, or BEM. Leaders of the University of Indonesia student movement are also officials of BEM, a body that exists at a number of campuses and which critics charge is closely linked to another group, the Association of Islamic Students (HMI).
Hendardi, a Jakarta human-rights lawyer who represented East Timor’s resistance leader, Xanana Gusmao, said that among the HMI alumni is Akbar Tandjung, leader of the Golkar Party, which backed Suharto. Golkar is now the second-largest group in parliament and a fierce critic of Mr. Wahid.
Another HMI alumnus is Mr. Sudjana.
“This isn’t like the student movement of 1998,” Hendardi said. “It’s engineered.”
Golkar members are not the only ones who want Mr. Wahid out, but the party has become the focus of anger for the president’s supporters, thousands of whom rallied last week before trashing Golkar Party offices in East Java province.
Yesterday, about 10,000 supporters of Indonesia’s beleaguered president rallied in his political stronghold to protest the corruption accusations against him.
There were no reports of violence during the demonstration in the town of Jember, about 510 miles east of Jakarta in eastern Java, police said. Other recent demonstrations by Wahid loyalists have ended with mobs stoning or torching offices of political rivals.
“There is a convergence of interests to get rid of Gus Dur,” a Western diplomat said.
“I think he will have to go at some point,” the diplomat said. “Those who decided to move against him are really very determined.”