Indonesian President Tells Parliament he is Innocent
Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid on Wednesday insisted he was innocent of involvement in two financial scandals and rejected the contents of a parliamentary censure motion.
But major parties rejected his response and said they would push ahead with a second censure that could lead to impeachment by August.
"Allow me, with an apology, to say that I do not accept the contents of the memorandum (of censure) for constitutional reasons," Wahid said in his reply to the charges, read out to the house by a minister.
The censure was issued by the lower house, the People's Representative Council (DPR), in February over Wahid's alleged role in two scandals, known as Bruneigate and Bulogate.
Bruneigate concerns a two million dollar donation from the Sultan of Brunei which is unaccounted for. Bulogate centres on the embezzlement of 3.5 million dollars from the state food agency Bulog, for which Wahid's former masseur is awaiting trial.
"I am certain that in these cases, legally, I am not guilty," Wahid said.
"If I had wanted to make a personal profit from the funds related to these cases, of course it would not have been difficult for me," Wahid said
"I did not do it because it never crossed my mind."
In his brief introduction, the clinically blind Wahid said: "This reply, because I cannot see, will be read out by Baharudin Lopa, the minister for justice and human rights."
Wahid said the censure was "a political reality which cannot be avoided."
But he said there had been insufficient reason to issue it.
The report of a DPR probe committee on the scandals, used as the basis of the memorandum, had only concluded that the president "could be suspected of having played a role" in Bulogate, and "had given inconsistent statements" on Bruneigate.
"I do not object to be investigated, to being given a memorandum or to being dismissed, or asked to resign from the presidency, as long as the constitutional criteria are really met," Wahid's reply said.
MP Laksamana Sukardi from the Indonesian Democracy Party for Struggle PDIP) which holds the largest block of seats in the DPR, called Wahid "defiant."
He said the parliament "doesn't need to prove beyond reasonable doubt, that is for the courts."
A second memorandum, he said, "is just a matter of time."
House speaker Akbar Tanjung, who also leads Golkar, the second largest party in the 500-seat DPR, was more guarded, saying that the house reaction would not be known until April 30 when all factions will present their final opinion.
But Golkar MP Slamet Effendy Yusuf said flatly: "Golkar is not satisfied."
A second censure would open the way for the DPR to call a special session of the national assembly with the power to impeach Wahid.
The president has a month to reply to the second censure before the special session could be called, a process that would take two months.
Jakarta share prices closed morning trade 1.1 percent stronger, with the market index up 3.989 points at 373.292, mainly in a positive reaction to the absence of street protests, dealers said.
The rupiah also strengthened.
There was massive security in and around parliament but the thousands of pro-Wahid demonstrators who were rumored to be planning to rally did not show up.
A two-meter high interlocked plastic fence and rolls of razor wire were set up to prevent protestors from storming into the compound and hundreds of police, including mounted police and doghandlers, stood guard.
More than 9,000 police were mobilised across the capital to contain feared street clashes – JAKARTA (AFP)
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