Wahid faces stand-off over police chief arrest

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The Independent Online

The Indonesian President, Abdurrahman Wahid, has given a further sign of his increasing impotence and desperation by ordering the arrest of his chief of police, who has refused an order to quit his post.

The President ordered the national police chief, General Bimantoro, and the Jakarta commander, Sofjan Jacoeb, to be arrested for violating "a number of laws", according to Mr Wahid's spokesman, Adhie Massardi

General Jacoeb gave his reaction to the news on Indonesian television. "My reply is, 'Ha ha ha'," he said in an interview. "I'm just laughing."

Meanwhile, at least 80 armed police surrounded General Bimantoro's house, vowing to protect it against any trouble from Wahid supporters.

Five weeks ago, Mr Wahid announced he was sacking General Bimantoro after one of the President's supporters was shot dead by police during a riot in East Java. The general refused to step down, claiming that he could only be forced out with the approval of MPs who plan to impeach Mr Wahid at a special legislative session in three weeks' time.

"The President has ordered the chief political and security minister and the caretaker police chief to take tough action to avoid the spreading of insubordination," Mr Massardi said. "The order will take the form of an arrest. There are a number of laws that we think they have violated."

He explained that the President believed General Bimantoro had been using his troops to back a "certain political group".

Husnie Thamrin, the deputy parliamentary speaker, said: "This will definitely affect our judgment because this policy is blatantly violating regulations. The President is increasingly lashing out with his power."