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The BBC's Simon Ingram
"It is a symbol of the chaos into which Indonesia's government has descended."
 real 28k

Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Police feud symbolic of chaos
President Wahid
Wahid has failed to gain support for emergency measures
By Simon Ingram in Jakarta

President Wahid's order to arrest his national police chief, General Saroyo Bimantoro, on grounds of insubordination appears to be a further attempt to shore up his fading authority,

It's the latest twist in a quarrel between the two men and comes less than three weeks before parliament is due to hold a special meeting to force President Wahid from office.

General Suroyo Bimantoro
General Bimantoro is thought to be in Singapore
The month-old feud has become an apt symbol of the chaos, bordering on farce, into which Indonesia's government has descended.

The story began last month when the president ordered General Bimantoro to resign after the police chief said publicly that the security forces would not back Mr Wahid's threat to call a state of emergency - a move the president believes could stave off his looming impeachment.

The general stood firm, saying he would only go if parliament - dominated by Mr Wahid's sworn enemies - gave its approval.

Change of tack

On 1 July, the president tried a new tack, announcing General Bimantoro's appointment as ambassador to Malaysia. The general ignored that order too.

Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri
Vice President Megawati is widely expected to be the next president
However, his position seemed to weaken early this week when a group of middle-ranking officers issued a statement saying the general should stop disobeying orders and resign.

General Bimantoro promptly announced he was taking leave.

He is now thought to be in Singapore, making it questionable to say the least whether any punitive action against him will ever take place.

The clock is fast running down on Mr Wahid's shambolic term of office. If all goes to plan, parliament will meet on 1 August to begin deliberations that will force Mr Wahid from office.

The president is stubbornly clinging to political life, but few observers believe he can prevent the inevitable.

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See also:

12 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Wahid orders arrest of police chief
21 Oct 99 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: New hope for Indonesia?
21 Oct 99 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Indonesia's Islamic presidency?
31 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Indonesia's power vacuum
30 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Testing Indonesia's democracy
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