- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2001

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Supporters of Indonesias president attacked and burned churches and other buildings belonging to his opponents yesterday, outraged by parliaments continuing effort to impeach him.

Security forces fired rubber bullets and warning shots in President Abdurrahman Wahid´s home province of East Java, where he is revered as an Islamic holy man. Mr. Wahid, who has warned that his ouster could trigger national disintegration, condemned the mayhem.

In Jakarta, his former ally and now main rival, Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, positioned herself for the top job. Parliament convened today to vote on the next step toward impeachment.

Since last year, Mrs. Megawati has remained silent about Mr. Wahid´s leadership, which has been dogged by erratic policy-making, bloody ethnic battles across Indonesia and economic mismanagement.

But it seemed clear she is now ready to grab the presidency after last week spurning an offer to share power with Mr. Wahid.

"His time is over," said Benny Subianto, a political analyst. "All his cards have been played. There is nothing else."

Parliament was to vote later today to ask the People´s Consultative Assembly, the nation´s highest legislative body, to hold a special session and impeach Mr. Wahid over allegations of corruption and incompetence, probably by August.

At a meeting chaired by Mrs. Megawati yesterday, her Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle decided to endorse the impeachment motion.

Mrs. Megawati´s party is the largest in the legislature. Three other major parties have also signaled support for the measure, giving the anti-Wahid coalition an overwhelming majority.

Parliament has already censured Mr. Wahid twice, in February and April. According to largely untested constitutional procedures, a third reprimand clears the way for the assembly to try the president.

The People´s Consultative Assembly consists of 500 parliamentary deputies and 200 representatives of regional legislatures and social groups.

The assembly, acting as an electoral college, picked Mr. Wahid over Mrs. Megawati in October 1999, after a number of Muslim parties objected to a female president.

But those groups, along with the Golkar party of former dictator Suharto, have since abandoned Mr. Wahid and switched their support to Mrs. Megawati.

Lawmakers said they will push ahead with the ouster campaign despite an announcement on Monday by the attorney general that prosecutors had cleared Mr. Wahid of any wrongdoing in the two corruption affairs.

Parliament Speaker Akbar Tandjung said the impeachment effort was motivated by "the president´s performance, attitude and policies."

In East Java, security forces clashed with hundreds of protesters outside a police station after four men were arrested for setting fire to a church and throwing stones at another in the town of Pasuruan yesterday.

About a dozen demonstrators were hurt, hospital officials said.

On Monday, mobs burned a mosque belonging to an Islamic group that is a rival of Mr. Wahid´s own religious organization and two offices of Mrs. Megawati´s party.

In Indonesia´s second-largest city, Surabaya, 440 miles east of Jakarta, about 1,000 Wahid supporters burned tires and blocked roads.

Hundreds of police and soldiers fired warning shots to disperse crowds that tried to invade the East Java regional legislature, and dozens of armored vehicles drove through Surabaya´s streets.

In the capital, armored vehicles were deployed around parliament and the nearby Jakarta Convention Center, where leaders of the G-15 group of developing nations were to meet today at the same time as the parliamentary session.

Mr. Wahid´s top security minister told Kompas newspaper the president had planned to declare a state of emergency and dissolve parliament on Monday.

Mr. Wahid abandoned the move under pressure from Cabinet ministers and generals, Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said.

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