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Indonesian Traditionalist Islam's. Troubled Experience with Democracy (1999-2001) - article ; n°1 ; vol.64, pg 117-144

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Archipel - Année 2002 - Volume 64 - Numéro 1 - Pages 117-144
Andrée Feillard
Le premier président élu démocratiquement en Indonésie est issu des rangs de l'élite musulmane traditionaliste, le Nahdlatul Ulama. Derrière l'union de circonstance avec l'Islam réformiste se cachent de profondes divisions, et surtout des interrogations fondamentales sur la démocratie. L'article montre l'existence chez les oulémas du Nahdlatul Ulama de fortes réticences à la présidence d'Abdurrahman Wahid, petit-fils du fondateur du mouvement. Par ses nombreuses faiblesses face à une critique généralisée, la présidence de Wahid a provoqué de nouvelles tensions entre loyalistes, décidés à utiliser les moyens extra-parlementaires pour sauver l'honneur du président et celui du Nahdlatul Ulama, les oulémas cherchant dans Icfiqh (jurisprudence islamique) des réponses sages pour répondre à la dissidence politique. Cet article présente le regard de la plus grande organisation musulmane sur elle-même durant cette période clé, et son impact direct sur le contexte politico-religieux aujourd'hui.
28 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.

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Andrée Feillard
Indonesian Traditionalist Islam's. Troubled Experience with
Democracy (1999-2001)
In: Archipel. Volume 64, 2002. pp. 117-144.
Résumé
Andrée Feillard
Le premier président élu démocratiquement en Indonésie est issu des rangs de l'élite musulmane traditionaliste, le Nahdlatul
Ulama. Derrière l'union de circonstance avec l'Islam réformiste se cachent de profondes divisions, et surtout des interrogations
fondamentales sur la démocratie. L'article montre l'existence chez les oulémas du Nahdlatul Ulama de fortes réticences à la
présidence d'Abdurrahman Wahid, petit-fils du fondateur du mouvement. Par ses nombreuses faiblesses face à une critique
généralisée, la présidence de Wahid a provoqué de nouvelles tensions entre loyalistes, décidés à utiliser les moyens extra-
parlementaires pour sauver l'honneur du président et celui du Nahdlatul Ulama, les oulémas cherchant dans Icfiqh (jurisprudence
islamique) des réponses sages pour répondre à la dissidence politique. Cet article présente le regard de la plus grande
organisation musulmane sur elle-même durant cette période clé, et son impact direct sur le contexte politico-religieux aujourd'hui.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Feillard Andrée. Indonesian Traditionalist Islam's. Troubled Experience with Democracy (1999-2001). In: Archipel. Volume 64,
2002. pp. 117-144.
doi : 10.3406/arch.2002.3728
http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/arch_0044-8613_2002_num_64_1_3728Andrée Feillard
Indonesian Traditionalist Islam's
Troubled Experience with Democracy (1999-2001)^)
Ten days before the fall of Suharto, on May 11th, about twenty leading
ulama (religious scholars) of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU, literally the
Awakening of the Ulama), Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, were
invited to reflect on the chaotic situation in Jakarta. Meeting in a Qur'anic
school at Langitan, the kiais (title of an ulama in Java) were asked by the
host, Kiai Abdullah Faqih, to report the divine message they had respectively
received in their religious meditation (istikarah). One by one, they came to
" " (sangat mende- the conclusion that the situation was already very pressing
sak) and that a change of leadership was unavoidable. To convey this dra
matic conclusion, the kiais asked for a meeting with President Suharto, who
agreed to receive them on May 21st at 9 a.m. That meeting however never
took place. The kiais stepped off the train in Jakarta in the early morning
hours of that day, the very morning when President Suharto announced that
he was resigning in favour of his vice-president, B.J. Habibie. (2)
The kiais had arrived too late to have any political impact, although their authori
ty rested on a 35-million strong constituency representing traditionalist Islam. (3)
1. This is a modified version of a paper presented at the International Conference on
Discourses on Political Reform and Democratization in East and Southeast Asia in the Light
of New Processes of Regional Community-Building, Duisburg, Germany, May 22-24, 2002.
I would like to thank Martin van Bruinessen, Greg Fealy, Robert Hefner & Marcus Mietzner
for their precious comments on this version.
2. Interview with Kiai Muchith Muzadi, 26 March 2002, Jakarta.
3. This estimate is based on the stability of NU's electorate, which both in 1955 and in 1971
made up about 18 percent of the vote. Today, Indonesia's population is about 210 million.
Archipel 64, Paris, 2002, pp. 117-144 118 Andrée Feillard
As for the NU chief, Abdurrahman Wahid (also called Gus Dur)(4), he
had been quasi-absent during the violent May 1998 transition : having had a
stroke in January 1998, he was laying in bed during most of this crucial time.
After having been a major political force in the 1980s and 1990s, the
Nahdlatul Ulama was not a decisive factor in the 1998 political change.
Reformasi was the work of students, including NU-linked students, and its
main hero was Amien Rais, a vocal politician from NU's rival organization,
the more puritan and rationalist Muhammadiyah.
In October of the following year, with Abdurrahman Wahid's election to
the presidency - the first democratically elected leader in Indonesia (5) - the
Nahdlatul Ulama gained a leading role in the transition process. His presi
dency, however, did not last long. He was impeached over charges of incom
petence and corruption in July 2001, by the same Consultative Assembly
(MPR) that had elected him and that has now chosen Megawati
Soekarnoputri as president.
This paper will not try to analyse the multiple reasons for Wahid's fall,
which are still a subject of controversy, but will present reactions and inter
nal debates within the Nahdlatul Ulama before and during Wahid's 22-month
presidency, and its immediate impact.
It must be remembered that the fall of Suharto comes after a period of
great debate on the role of religion in the moralisation of political life, a
debate that echoes the current debate in China on economics and morality.
The role of Islam was strengthened in 1990 by Suharto's sponsoring of ICMI
(Ikatan Cendekiawan Muslim se-Indonesia), an organisation of Muslim intel
lectuals, which had a two-fold impact : moderate Islam gave a new dynamism
to old demands for a clean government and social justice, while radical
Islamic groups introduced a religious sectarianism, new to Indonesia. When
Suharto fell, his vice-president and successor, B.J. Habibie, inherited these
high expectations of Muslim politics, which were then placed on the shoulders
of Abdurrahman Wahid and sit now on those of Megawati Soekarnoputri.
Habibie's period as president was marked by the first democratic elections in
Indonesia since 1955, but ended with charges of continued corruption, obvi
ous protection of President Suharto's family, and political violence by new
militias acting in the name of Islam. Wahid's presidency ended with similar
charges, but the militias were this time acting against the President.
I will argue that the Wahid presidency occurred despite the recommendat
ions of the kiai's, who were "forced" into this new phase of Nahdatul
4. Gus is the title given to children of kiais, whereas Dur is the abbreviation of Abdurrahman.
5. Soekarno had been proclaimed president when Indonesia reached independence in 1945,
Suharto had been elected by an assembly with numerous appointed members, and Habibie
had been handed over power by Suharto in May 1999.
Archipel 64, Paris, 2002 Indonesian Traditionalist Islam 's 119
Ulama' history against their own instincts. During the presidency, faced with
an intensifying wave of criticism and political manoeuvres by Wahid's oppon
ents, the president's loyalists chose to use extra-parliamentary methods, while
the embarrassed kiais looked to Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) for solutions to an
increasingly chaotic situation. Tensions increased between those leaving the
defense of the president to "God", and those loyalists who had decided to use
every means to defend him. In the end, by July 2001, the kiais were dragged
into an emotional defence of Wahid, formally asking the president to disband
the Parliament (DPR) and the Consultative Assembly (MPR).
The kiais1 world has been shaken by these dramatic developments, and
their authority openly put to the test. With Wahid's determination to take
over the presidency, the Nahdlatul Ulama was precipated into the very heart
of politics, only twenty years after avoiding it, out of disillusion. Now, a new
course seems set for the Ulama. Wahid's failure has not discour
aged activists away from politics but introduced a leaching of politics into
the organisation, in part out of a feeling of challenge - or revenge - to be
taken up.
The Nahdlatul Ulama enters this new era with a tarnished image, and,
unfortunately, this period also has had an impact beyond the NU, weakening
the image of moderate Islam in general, and shaking the spirit of reformasi
itself. But new challenges stemming from radical Islam are already forcing
NU to look in another direction.
Ill-feelings : the kiais' unsuccessful resistance
Abdurrahman Wahid's rise to power in October 1999 was the result of an
alliance of Islamic parties that chose to ignore the old differences that had
divided Indonesian Islam since the start of the 20th century : Wahid, as the
chief of Nahdlatul Ulama, represented traditionalist Islam, as opposed to
reformist Islam, which rejected traditional saint worship and the ulama's sole
authority in interpreting the sacred texts, and which asked for a religious
practice closer to the puritan Wahhabi model. The alliance of reformist and
traditionalist Islam in favour of Wahid was initiated by Amien Rais after the
June 1999 legislative elections. (6)
Megawati had been the winner in the presidential race after her party's
huge victory in these elections : the PDI-P (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia-
Perjuangan, Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle) obtained 34 percent of
the vote, well above the 12 percent that NU's political party, the PKB (Partai
Kebangkitan Bangsa, the Nation's Awakening Party) gained. The alliance of
6. On the election, see Marcus Mietzner "The 1999 General Session : Wahid, Megawati and
the Fight for the Presidency", in : Chris Manning et al. (editors), Indonesia in Transition.
Social Aspects of Reformasi and Crisis, Singapore 2000, pp. 39-57.
Archipel 64, Paris, 2002 120 Andrée Feillard
Islamic political parties (Poros Tengah, Middle Axis) in favour of Wahid,
underway since August, gathered wider support the night before the presi
dential election in October 1999, when President Habibie's accountability
speech was rejected, triggering his withdrawal from the race. (7)
This Islamic alliance was an historical event. Beginning in the early
1950s and until 1965, the Nahdlatul Ulama had been President Soekarno's
close ally, even though several NU MPs had been instrumental in facilitating
General Suharto's takeover in 1966. (g) More importantly perhaps, all
throughout the 1990s, until 1998, Wahid had been Megawati's political part
ner during the years leading to President Suharto's fall in 1998.
It is no wonder then that Wahid's determination to compete with
Megawati for president was problematic for the old kiais and was seen by
some of them as opening a fracture in a historical political partnership.
Establishing a political party for NU (the PKB) was one thing, competing
with Megawati for the presidency another.
Before October 1999, one NU opinion in favor of Wahid's presidency
was based on the fear that the election of either Megawati or Habibie would
lead to a violent clash among supporters of the PDI-P and Habibie's Golkar
and Islamic supporters. (9) This argument had some logic, given that shortly
before the presidential election, on October 6, thousands of Megawati sup
porters demonstrated on the Jakarta streets, followed the next day by thou
sands of Habibie supporters (Front Jihad Bersatu and Laskar fi Sabilillah).
The main argument of radical Islamic parties for rejecting Megawati was
then religious : to prevent the " domination of the secular and non-Muslim
group "(10), although officially, the fact she is a woman (muslimah) was cit
ed. Indeed, for the Reformist Islamic group, the number of Christians on the
PDI-P list of MP candidates was disproportionately high, and they feared the
influence of Christian politicians such as general Theo Safei and Jacob
7. At 2.40 a.m. of the night before the presidential election, Amien Rais met Gus Dur, and at
4 a.m., a key meeting was held at Habibie's residence with Fuad Bawazier where Habibie
urged Amien Rais to be candidate. Amien did not comment (Sabili, 3 November 1999, p. 20).
His candidacy would have spoiled relations with the NU for a long time to come, something
he was made aware of by Muhammadiyah leaders.
8. Andrée Feillard, Islam et armée dans l'Indonésie contemporaine, L'Harmattan, Paris,
1990 : pp. 79-95.
9. Choirul Anam, Seandainya Aku Jadi Matori, internai NU publication presented to the
Extraordinary PKB congress of Yogyakarta, 16-19 January, published in Surabaya, January
2002, p. 88.
10. Choirul Anam, op. cit., p. 79, citing PPP secretary general Alimarwan Hanan : "PPP tun-
duk pada fatwa ulama yang tegas menyatakan Presiden RI mendatang harus putra (bukan
putri) terbaik Indonesia Muslim (bukan Muslimah). PPP sebagai Partai Islam harus
istiqomah, konsisten pada pendiriannya, dan selalu waspada terhadap kelompok-kelompok
sekuler dan non-Muslim yang akan menguasai kembali bumi Nusantara ini ".
Archipel 64, Paris, 2002 Indonesian Traditionalist Islam 's 121
Tobing. The offer to Wahid came from Amien Rais, a Muslim intellectual
then head of the Muhammadiyah. For Wahid himself, the presidency was an
attractive proposal : he considered Megawati a younger inexperienced " sis
ter", whose popularity mostly rested on her father's charisma. 01)
But reservations were high among the most senior kiais, partly because
the proposal came from Amien Rais, Gus Dur's long-time rival.
Another key factor in the kiais' reservation was linked to their doubts of
the appropriateness of having Wahid as President. He could count on the loy
alty of the PKB but the party had a mere 12 percent of the vote and about 8
percent of the seats in the MPR. Moreover, as NU chair over the past ten
years, Wahid had been at times openly criticized for being a "bad manager".
His lack of managerial skills would make him a problematic president espe
cially in these critical times. (12) Wahid had become increasingly unadvisable,
and he was regarding politics as a kind of chess game at which he alone
excelled. He had proven this from his two decade-long challenge to President
Suharto. He had survived as NU chair despite efforts to unseat him.
This thinking led senior kiais to renew to dissuade Wahid from
seeking the top job. In meetings held in Langitan, Buntet, and in Jakarta, the
kiais expressed their strong reservations about the presidency. In Buntet
(Cirebon, West Java), Kiai Abdullah Abbas, as he said himself in an inter
view, told Amien Rais, who came accompanied by Fuad Bawazier, a former
finance minister of President Suharto, and eminence grise of the regime in its
last years : " Usually, the Muhammadiyah people are the ones with the most
hatred toward the NU people. So, what is the motivation behind your pro
posal?" Abbas went on to tell Amien he suspected him of proposing Gus
Dur because Amien later wanted to have him dismissed, at which point
Amien would take over as president. Abbas said he disliked the idea because
" If Gus Dur failed as president, not only would his own reputation suffer,
but so would NU's". (13)
In a Jakarta meeting, about two weeks before the election, two senior
kiais, Kiai Sahal Mahfudh, NU's rois aam (head of the supreme NU council)
and Kiai Muchith Muzadi, an influential ulama on NU's Advisory board
(Mustasyar) and one of the last surviving pupils of Hasyim Asy'ari, met
11. Choirul Anam, op. cit., p. 91, citing M. Tio (éd.), Megawati di Mata Politisi, Garuda Ijo,
Mei 2001. He declared to Amien Rais he did not want to be "number two" (nomor dua). The
relative failure of NU's party, the PKB, in the June 1999 legislative elections (12% of the
vote, as against more than 18% in 1955 and 1971), was well below Wahid's predictions, and
thus painful.
12. Interview with Kiai Muchith Muzadi, 26 March 2002, Jakarta.
"Amien' 13. Kiai s Abbas face became was quoted red in when an interview he suggested with these Aula, hidden April 2001, intentions" p. 28. (merah He added padam that
mukanya).
Archipel 64, Paris, 2002 122 Andrée Feillard
Abdurrahman Wahid in private and told him that he should "not be a candi
date to the presidency, but rather a kingmaker". Wahid responded with a
polite " Yes " in Javanese and a few minutes later emerged from the meeting
to tell the press that he was a candidate for the presidency. Standing at his
side were two baffled kiais. O4)
The major kiais, about 15 of them, arrived in Jakarta about one week
before the election, and met several times on the question. After a meeting in
Kartika Hotel, on October 19th, the NU board issued a statement in the same
reserved mood : the kiais said they respected the right of Wahid to be a can
didate, but "hoped" that he would choose rather to be the "kiai bangsa"
(kiai of the nation). O5)
According to some NU sources, a meeting of kiais "days before the elec
tion" would have gone as far as citing Wahid's near-blindness (16> as a rel
igious justification (ma'dzur syar'ie) against his candidacy, based on the
argument that al Mawardi's Al Ahkam as Sulthaniyya forbids a blind judge to
practice justice. O7) But the kiais would have disagreed on this painful mes
sage and risked only the vague advice that Wahid should " not to forget the
Qur'anic school literature". (18>
On the day before the elections, when Habibie's presidency was censured
by the Consultative Assembly (MPR), meaning that he would no longer
stand in the presidential election, a last meeting was organized in Fuad
Bawazier's residence to convince the kiais that they should accept Wahid's
candidacy. Then, Kiai Muchith Muzadi told Amien Rais that the kiais
unwillingly" (dengan sangat terpaksa)A19) accepted only "very
kiais' ill-feeThese anecdotes are telling : first, they expose the senior
lings over their leader's presidential race against Soekarno's daughter,
Megawati, for historical and pragmatic reasons ; second, they illustrate their
deep distrust of Amien Rais (the champion of modernist Islam associated
here with a Suharto ally, Bawazier) ; and third, they reveal a new NU internal
phenomenon, the sharp decrease in authority of senior kiais (then in their
seventies) over the younger Abdurrahman Wahid (59). This loss of authority
14. Interview with Kiai Muchith Muzadi, 26 March 2002, Jakarta.
15. Statement cited in Choirul Anam, op. cit., p. 94.
16. Gus Dur lost his sight progressively during the 1990s, and his blindness has been a major
preoccupation and source of disquiet since 1997. He hoped to be able to overcome it and tried
several times to seek a cure in China and the USA, but without results.
17. Cited in Anam, op. cit., p. 71.
18. Choirul a fierce Wahid loyalist, quotes Kiai Haji Anwar Iskandar, the head of
PKB's Supreme Council for East Java, who attended the meeting, as reporting this decision
and hesitation, op. cit., pp 71-72.
19. Interview with Kiai Muchith Muzadi, 26 March 2002, Jakarta. He added that the kiais
would have preferred him to be a "counsellor" (penasehat), which, in their eyes, would be a
"more senior position".
Archipel 64, Paris, 2002 Indonesian Traditionalist Islam's 123
had already been felt in July 1998 when Wahid threatened the kiais that he
would declare himself President of NU's political party (PKB) if they would
not accept his own candidate, Abdul Jalil Matori. (2°)
Convinced that the NU had more here to lose than to win, the kiais were
left in the uneasy position of first having to say a polite " no" without hurting
the feelings of Wahid, Hasyim Asyari's grandson, and then finally having to
say "yes". But first they made a strong point : Wahid was a precious amulet
(jimat), the kiais would "lend" him to the country for a certain period of
time only, on the condition that the "jimat" would be respected and well
treated. (2D
Wahid was elected by 373 MPs, only 51 of whom were from PKB. The
Islamic parties of the Middle Axis and part of Golkar and the Military voted
to make him president, with, as the first democratically elected president, the
task of applying long-awaited political and economic reforms. It was an
unlikely alliance.
After the initial hesitations described above, the Nahdlatul Ulama seemed
to enjoy the great honour of having their leader elected Head of State. The
pride felt among the people in the top hierarchy, added to the veneration
among the rural Javanese for a man considered a wali hidup (living saint),
are key elements in understanding the subsequent developments. How to
react to the caustic political opposition that arose in 2000 and 2001 ? As we
will see, some favored extra-parliamentary methods, including demonstrat
ions, while others, recognizing the distressing shortcomings of the Wahid
presidency, tried to limit NU's action in Parliament and to smooth relations
with Megawati. (22>
The confused response to political opposition
The alliance embracing all Islamic forces was a fresh start for Indonesia.
One month after Abdurrahman Wahid was elected, the Nahdlatul Ulama and
the Muhammadiyah organized joint religious ceremonies {pengajian
bersama) in several places. And NU's paramilitary (Banser) were seen coop
erating with Muhammadiyah1 s Kokam militia to secure these meetings. (23)
The radical bi-monthly Sabili concluded an article on Gus Dur's election
with "May this forged Islamic fraternity be stronger always, so that in the
future, there will be no need to see whether someone is NU,
20. On the PKB chair nomination, see Anam, op. cit., p. 20.
21. Interview with Kiai Muchith Muzadi, 26 March 2002, Jakarta.
22. The sharp divide between the two men appears most clearly in Choirul's book
Seandainya Aku Jadi Matori.
23. Ainur R. Sophiaan, Faaisol Taselan, Nadjib Hamid, Muhammadiyah Korban Kekerasan
Politik, Muhammadiyah office Surabaya, January 2002, p. 2. This book is not for sale and
was graciously given to me by the head of the East Java office.
Archipel 64, Paris, 2002 124 Andrée Feillard
Muhammadiyah, Masyumi, or other" (Sabili 10, tahun VII, 3 november
1999, p. 21). There were high expectations that "the rights of Muslims will
be recovered" (Ibid., p. 17).
But Wahid's policies soon became the subject of intense criticism (24)
from Islamic groups whose conservatism he seemed to ignore : he started his
mandate by declaring his willingness to establish commercial links with
Israel, provoking demonstrations by Islamic groups. Another big disappoint
ment was soon to come : Gus Dur's handling of the Maluku conflict, pitting
Christians and Muslims at each other since January 1999. The importance of
this conflict is often underestimated, but it was a key issue at the time of
Wahid's election. In its article reporting Megawati's defeat, the November
1999 issue of Sabili (p. 21) reports that on hearing the news, "the Muslims
of Ambon celebrated with a parade and people carried the symbols of
Islamic political parties ". It added that at the start of the vote counting,
which was first favorable to Megawati, the churches started to ring the bells,
but "at the end, Thank God, we won, the Islamic parties brandished their
banners, and we sung the Shalawatan Badr [a Muslim hymn] ". But there
again, President Wahid terribly disappointed radical Islam when he soon
urged the Moluccans to settle the conflict themselves, at times even defend
ing the Christians as being the victims of Suharto's Islamization policies.
Maluku soon became the place where the interests of radical Islam and that
of some military retirees, close to Suharto and decided to undermine the
Reform movement, met. Robert Hefner cites a lieutenant of Jaffar Thalib as
saying that contacts were made as early as January 2000 with the radical
Jaffar, with the message that they approved of his plans to escalate the armed
campaign against Christians in Maluku. (25> That Thalib's group of Jihad
fighers, the Laskar Jihad, received weapons from the military on arrival in
Ambon in April 2000, has been confirmed in interviews by Noorhaidi
Hassan. (26)
In February 2000, President Wahid sacked general Wiranto, a Suharto
associate, as minister coordinating defence and political affairs, earning
Wahid wide applause among the democrats. But in March, the president's
24. For a detailed account of the Wahid presidency, see Marcus Mietzner "Abdurrahman's
Indonesia : Political Conflict and Institutional Crisis ", to be published.
25. Robert Hefner, "Indonesian Islam at the Crossroads", in Van Zorge Report, 19 February
2002, p. 19.
26. Noorhaidi Hasan, "Faith and Politics : The Rise of the Laskar Jihad in the Era of
Transition in Indonesia", Indonesia 73 (April 2002), p. 148. Noorhaidi writes : "Even though
the political and military leaders in Jakarta forced them to cancel this mission, the members
of the team eventually succeeded in landing in Ambon ". At the port of the island, one memb
er of this mission recounted, they were enthusiastically welcomed by some military men,
who greeted them by saying, "Welcome to the jihad battlefield", and they were immediately
provided with a number of standard military weapons, including AK-47s and SS-14s'.
Archipel 64, Paris, 2002 Indonesian Traditionalist Islam 's 1 25
proposal to the MPR to revoke a 1966 decree banning communist ideology
upset the more moderate wing of the Islamic Axis, in addition to the military.
It had the sad result of considerably lessening the efforts of Yusril Mahendra,
the Minister of Justice from the Middle Axis, to rehabilitate former political
prisoners, or Indonesians living in political exile after 1965. (27> Wahid's
statement in favor of looking more closely into the 1965 events also raised
objections from the National Ulama Council (MUI). MPR Chairman Amien
Rais himself declared the president could be asked to explain himself in
Parliament (AFP, 24 march 2000).
The Suharto trial, which was one of the highest expectations among
democrats, and could have strengthened Wahid's popularity, never showed
any result. In March, Suharto's lawyers announced the former president
would not appear in court on corruption charges involving his family (their
fortune had been estimated at between 7 to 24 billion US dollars), and Wahid
was seen attending the wedding of one of Suharto's granddaughters (AFP, 29
March 2000). About that same time, the President started to have contacts
with one of his bitterest enemies, Eggy Sujana, a Muslim radical linked to
conservative members of the military. (28> Wahid's inauguration of a congress
of Sujana's Muslim Trade Union in August seemed to confirm the presi
dent's efforts to negotiate with his radical Islamic opponents.
More importantly perhaps, Wahid's sacking of seven ministers and aides
for alleged corruption jeopardized his relations with the three major political
parties, the PDI-P, Golkar, and the PPP. The fact that two ministers chosen
from his own camp were eventually sacked seemed to prove his lack of judg
ment. In the first quarter of 2000, accusations of corruption against Wahid or
his entourage (35 billion rupiah for Buloggate and 2 million US dollars in
Bruneigate) troubled his own supporters. When he reshuffled his cabinet in
August, his choice of a controversial figure as finance minister, Prijadi
Praptosuhardjo, a man who had failed to pass the "fit and proper" test for
the post of head of the People's Bank of Indonesia (BRI), were cited to rein
force the earlier accusations.
The moves and manoeuvres to dismiss President Gus Dur started in the
camp of the Islamic Axis, and created a profound shock within NU activists
circles. As early as January 2000, representatives of Islamic parties had
agreed that bringing Abdurrahman to power was a huge miscalculation. (29>
27. Interview with Gustaf Dupe, a human rights activist in charge of the new programme,
October 2000.
28. See Robert W. Hefner, Civil Islam, Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia,
Princetown University Press, 2000, p. 150.
29. Marcus Mietzner, "Abdurrahman's Indonesia : Political Conflict and institutional
Crisis", p. 5, n. 5, citing Tempo, 23 April 2000.
Archipel 64, Paris, 2002