Indonesia's Wahid: A Leader Sapped by Contradictions

Category: Life & Society Views: 1849

A chronology of the Indonesian president's 18 months in power

The following is a brief chronology of the main events in Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid's 18 months in power following parliament's decision to censure him for a second time, a move that could lead to eventual impeachment.


Oct 20: Wahid, a moderate Muslim scholar, is elected president by the 700-strong People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), defeating Megawati Sukarnoputri in a ballot. Megawati's defeat sparks angry reactions from her supporters, who rampage on the streets as soon as the result was known.

Oct 21: Megawati elected vice president by the MPR.

Oct 26: Wahid appoints a 35-member "rainbow" or "unity" cabinet.

Oct 27: The new government reopens a corruption probe into former president Suharto.

Nov 1: Wahid offers Suharto a pardon if he is found guilty of corruption.

Nov 4: Wahid says rebellious Aceh province has the right to "an East Timor-style" referendum.

Nov 18: Wahid irks parliament by likening MPs to kindergarten children.


Jan 23: Wahid expresses confidence that unrest in the provinces of Aceh and the Maluku islands, would be resolved by March.

Feb 1: Wahid, on a visit to London, calls on security minister Wiranto to resign from the cabinet over his involvement in East Timor violence and dismisses him 12 days later.

Feb 23: Top legislator Amien Rais says Wahid's presidency not under threat.

Feb 24: The physically frail Wahid cancels all appointments after contracting influenza, sending jitters through the financial markets.

March 14: Wahid accuses some military officers of conspiring against him.

April 24: Wahid orders two of his economic ministers to resign.

April 26: The Indonesian rupiah passes the 8,000-mark against the dollar as its free-fall continues following the political turmoil.

May 10: The president's youngest brother, Hasyim Wahid, is appointed to join the bank restructuring agency, sparking accusations of cronyism.

May 12: Indonesia and separatist rebels in Aceh sign a truce.

May 24: Wahid asks police to arrest his former masseur for allegedly using his name to embezzle 4.1 million dollars from Bulog (the state logistics agency).

June 6: Wahid rejects the legitimacy of a congress which declared the province of Irian Jaya independent from Indonesia.

June 15: Police seek to question Wahid over the Bulog scam.

June 28: Parliament warns Wahid to put overseas trips on hold because he had used up most of his travel allowance.

July 1: Wahid accuses several MPs of being behind the violent unrest and problems that have beset the country in the past two years.

July 4: Wahid denies reports he has ordered arrest of several MPs

July 13: Wahid says he will not run for a second term after 2004.

July 20: Wahid answers a summons from parliament, but refuses to explain why he fired two ministers in April.

July 21: Wahid apologizes, says he will talk to committee behind closed doors.

July 29: Thousands gather in Jakarta in mass show of support for Wahid.

Aug 7: Wahid tells the national assembly (MPR) annual session he will reshuffle his cabinet and take a back seat to Megawati.

Aug 9: Wahid bows to intense pressure and pledges to hand responsibility for the day-to-day running of the government to Megawati.

Aug 19: The lower house says it will probe the Bulogate and Bruneigate scandals, the latter involving the receipt of a two million dollar gift from the Sultan of Brunei.

Sept 8: MPs in uproar over alleged plans to buy an "Airforce 1" plane.

Oct 20: Police arrest Wahid's former masseur Alip Agung Suwondo for his alleged role in the Bulogate scandal.

Oct 28: Police clear Wahid of involvement in the Bulog scandal.

Nov 27: House speaker calls on Wahid to explain an October 14 meeting with fugitive son of former president Suharto.


Jan 30: Parliament committee finds Wahid "may have been" implicated in Bruneigate and Bulogate, but offers no proof. Wahid denies guilt.

Jan 31: Wahid says Megawati firmly behind him.

Feb 1: Parliament censures Wahid over Bruneigate and Bulogate, gives him three months to reply, or face a second censure. The military and Megawati's party support the censure.

March 15: Thousands of Wahid supporters rally at parliament.

March 19: Wahid sacks forestry minister Nurmahmudi Ismail for disloyalty.

March 28: Wahid replies to parliament over censure.

April 3: Wahid supporters in East Java form a death squad in his defence.

April 24: Politicians say Megwati supports second censure of Wahid.

April 27: Wahid addresses the nation, Megawati is absent.

April 29: 20,000 Wahid supporters rally , in Jakarta.

April 30: Parliament votes to censure Wahid for a second time.

JAKARTA, April 29 (AFP) - Indonesia's first elected president, Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, has undermined his own image as a

democratic leader by his erratic rule of the past 18 months and the plethora of contradictions he has sowed.

The practically blind 60-year-old Wahid successfully led Indonesia's largest Muslim group, the Nahdlatul Ulama, out of the political minefield of the iron-fisted rule of former president Suharto.

But he has been less successful in leading this nation of some 210 million people.

From a welcome choice at the time of his election in October 1999, he has since become increasingly cornered by relentless critics and politicians.

His arrival at the helm of the nation in October 1999 was the result of last-minute backing from a cluster of small Muslim parties loath to see the country led by a woman, the popular daughter of the country's first president Sukarno, Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Megawati, the chairwoman of the Indonesian Democracy Party for Struggle (PDIP) which won the 1999 parliamentary elections and holds the largest block of seats at the legislature, was instead elected vice president.

Like many of his initial staunch supporters, the alliance of Muslim parties known as the "Central Axis" has since turned into Wahid's bitterest foe, and its leaders have been in the frontline of efforts to get him to resign or be ousted.

The diplomatic skills that allowed Wahid and his NU to survive Suharto's reign unscathed slowly succumbed to the relentless series of problems that have beset his government, from the legacy of a crumbling economy to growing separatism and communal unrest in the regions.

His proverbial U-turns in politics and statements, which had helped save him from doom in the Suharto days, are now looked at askance by politicians and laymen alike in the euphoria of democracy.

A Military Police (R) salutes Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid (C) upon his arrival at Ambon port, 12 December, 1999, in the troubled province of Maluku. Wahid and Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri visited the strife-torn city of Ambon to urge Muslims and Christians to settle their differences before the government be 'forced to intervene'.

Although a Muslim intellectual and revered Muslim leader, Wahid has alienated himself from the religiously-based Muslim bloc by ignoring them.

He has angered the legislature by his self-assurance, clipped the wings of the once-powerful military and frustrated many with his erratic, one-man-show rule.

Even his long-time friendship with Megawati has suffered from his unpredictable decision-making.

She failed to appear on several occasions following his one-sided decisions, such as the dismissals of ministers or other officials and the appointment of their replacements, mostly his own confidants.

The People's Representative Council (DPR), the lower house, censured Wahid in February over possible implication in two financial scandals.

Former Indonesian president Suharto met with current President Abdurrahman Wahid at Suharto's residence in Jakarta, 08 March 2000. Suharto personally welcomed Wahid when he arrived for their first meeting since assuming the presidency in October 1999.

He has maintained his innocence, but his unconcealed disdain for some members of the legislature and his sharp tongue only galvanized MPs to forge ahead with a likely second censure on Monday.

A second censure would allow the DPR, if it deems Wahid's response unsatisfactory, to call for a special session of the national assembly that could lead to impeachment proceedings.

Troubled by impaired eyesight that worsened following a stroke, Wahid has had to increasingly rely on his close entourage for input on the country's situation, a weakness many have blamed for his damaging foible of making untimely controversial comments.

Although his intellect has never been doubted, even by his harshest critics, Wahid has come under increasing attack for the controversy he arouses.

His walkout from a DPR committee probing the two financial scandals, his attempt to delay the arrest of several businessman facing allegations of graft and his sudden replacement of officials by close associates have all infuriated his opponents.

Pro Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid demonstrators shout 'Long live Wahid' in show of support at the national monument park in Jakarta 30 April 2001. Some 5,000 supporters of the embattled president rallied as legislators held a key session which could censure him for the second time.

He has also bragged that several regions will secede if he is ousted from the presidency and intimidated opponents by touting his grassroots support.

Critics say his one-man leadership style, while acceptable to a traditionalist Muslim organization like the NU, is far from appropriate in governing the world's problem-ridden fourth largest nation.

Born to a widely respected prominent NU-linked Muslim family in Jombang, East Java, Wahid was an academic before his NU posting brought him into politics.

Married to Sinta Nuriyah who is confined to a wheelchair following a traffic accident, the multilingual Wahid has four daughters.

  Category: Life & Society
Views: 1849
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