Ousted Indonesian president says he'll be one of few voices for democracy

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The Independent Online

In his final interview before vacating the presidential palace, ousted leader Abdurrahman Wahid said he had turned down an offer by his successor, Megawati Sukarnoputri, to see him off at the airport as he leaves for medical treatment in the United States on Thursday.

Insisting that her rise to power was unconstitutional, Wahid said bitterly that their longtime friendship had ended and he wanted nothing to do with her or her new government that he said would controlled by the military and corrupt forces.

"I don't want to talk about her now," he said, adding that the politicians who had ousted him in favor of her four days ago were "already dividing the spoils."

"Now the army begins to take control," he said.

Speaking to The Associated Press and several other news media, the 61–year old ailing former president vowed he will be one of the few voices for democracy in Megawati's Indonesia.

"I am painting a gloomy picture," he said on Thursday morning in his office. Inside the palace walls, hundreds of supporters gathered to pay their respects and say goodbye to Wahid before he was due to leave a few hours later.

Thousands gathered in a park adjacent to the palace.

Wahid refused to leave the white–columned mansion in the first few days after his ouster, but relented on the advice of his doctors and family.

In the interview, he said he would issue a call to his followers later Thursday asking them not to resort to violence.

He also said he would urge the people of several restive provinces to accept their union with Indonesia and not seek to break away.

The national assembly dismissed Wahid on Monday after impeaching him on charges of corruption and incompetence. The assembly replaced him with Megawati, 54–year–old the daughter of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno.

"I underestimated the opportunism of politicians, their lust for power and their fear of being brought to the courts for law violations," he said of the legislators who sacked him in a 591–0 vote.

"Indonesia will be looted. There will be no law and human rights will be nowhere," Wahid said of the new administration. "But gloomy or not we have to begin again because we believe in democracy."

Wahid said he will leave for the United States for tests for blood pressure problems at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. The ousted leader is nearly blind and has suffered two strokes.

He said that doctors had warned him that he risked having a third if not treated.

He insisted, though, that his physical disabilities, had not hampered his performance as leader. During interview, Wahid showed no sign of fatigue and at one stage even told jokes.

He said that Megawati had offered to both visit him at the palace and see him off at the airport, but he said he turned her down. Their once close friendship has been damaged, he said, by what he called her illegal ascension to the presidency.

However, Megawati's millionaire husband, Taufik Kiemas, did visit Wahid for 10 minutes on Wednesday night, Wahid said.

"He asked me for forgiveness, but I said to him that this is not a personal matter but (about) whether you are following the constitution," Wahid said, adding that there were questions about the business dealings of Kiemas and other Megawati associates

Wahid said that when he returns from Baltimore, he will work as the "peoples' teacher" and that his biggest achievement as president had been "to open the door of democracy."

Wahid was the first freely elected leader after the 1998 fall of the former dictator Suharto, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 32 years.

The Southeast Asian nation has had little success in consolidating its democratic institutions in the three years since Suharto stepped down, and Wahid was widely criticized for erratic and incompetent rule.

Wahid said he believes the army will now have a much bigger say in running Indonesia, and that there will be a crackdown on dissent and on separatist movements in the restive provinces of Aceh and Irian Jaya.

But he said he had no fear that authorities would be able to shut him up, too.

"They are too sophisticated for that. But if they do, the people will revolt," he said, adding that he could run again for president in the next election in 2004, if asked by his supporters.

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