Wahid Sacks Minister from Party behind Moves to Oust him

Published March 16th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Indonesia's embattled President Abdurrahman Wahid has dismissed a second minister from one of the parties behind moves to oust him, officials said Friday. 

Forestry Minister Nurmahmudi Ismail, former chairman of the Justice Party, was sacked on Thursday, Defense Minister Muhammad Mahfud told journalists at the presidential palace. 

Cabinet Secretary Marsilam Simanjuntak, speaking after Wahid returned from a day-trip to South Sumatra said later Friday, Marzuki Usman, a former tourism, art and culture minister, had been picked to replace Mahfud. 

"Marzuki Usman is deemed by the president to be capable of conducting his duties," Simanjuntak said, adding he would be installed on Saturday morning. 

The presidential decree appointing Usman made it clear the move "would improve cooperation and coordination in the cabinet in the running of the government," he added. 

The Justice Party (PK), is one of a group of Muslim parties that supported Wahid's election as president in October 1999 but later turned against him and were now seeking his ouster through a special session of the national assembly. 

Wahid is defying mounting pressure to step down in favor of his deputy, Megawati Sukarnoputri, after being censured by parliament on February 1 for alleged involvement in two financial scandals. 

Critics have also accused the virtually blind president of incompetent leadership in a country struggling economically and beset by violent separatist and communal conflicts. 

Ismail is the second minister from the Muslim parties to be dismissed by Wahid this year after Laws and Regulations Minister Yusril Izha Mahendra, from the Stars and Crescent Party, was fired in February. 

Ismail said he was dismissed for refusing a presidential order to replace the ministry's secretary-general Suripto who Wahid has accused of plotting to oust him. 

"I refused because (the order) for dismissal is based on unproven accusations against Mr. Suripto," Ismail told a press conference. 

"If I comply, it will then look as if I endorse the accusation," Ismail told the SCTV television later. 

Wahid told him he had been informed by "very reliable and honest sources" that Suripto had met Major General Muhdi Purwopranjono, the former chief of the army's feared Kopassus special forces, at a Jakarta hotel to plot Wahid's downfall, he said. 

Ismail also disputed Wahid's allegations that his forestry visions and policies were unclear, cited by Mahfud as among the reasons for his dismissal. 

"I have created a strategic forestry plan before the end of 2000," Ismail said. He also said that for the first time in its history, his ministry now had an up-to-date "solid" forestry map. 

Earlier Friday Mahfud spelled out the reasons for Ismail's sacking: "He does not share the same visions as the president ... his forestry policies have been unclear and we do not know where the forestry sector is being taken to, and he has been unable to control the mass of the PK." 

Ismail said that as a civil servant he was no longer a PK member and it was not within his capacities to control the party. 

Ismail's dismissal did not appear to affect either the rupiah or the stock exchange, dealers said. 

The Jakarta Stock Exchange composite index was down 1.6 percent, losing 6.348 points at 380.515 at the close of Friday trade, but dealers blamed general political uncertainty. 

The rupiah was slightly weaker at 10,250-10,380 to the dollar, compared to its opening of 10,100-10,175 to the greenback with dealers blaming high corporate demand for dollars. 

The announcement of Ismail's dismissal came a day after two politicians from the same coalition of Muslim parties chose to be sacked from the National Mandate Party (PAN) in order to stay in the cabinet. 

PAN, chaired by Wahid's arch foe, national assembly chairman Amien Rais, dismissed Education Minister Yahya Muhaimin and Manpower and Transmigration Minister Al Hilal Hamdi, from the party on Thursday -- JAKARTA (AFP) 


© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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