Indonesia | Unrest Plagues Wahid's Tenure as President
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Unrest Plagues Wahid's Tenure as President
On Oct. 20, 1999, in a surprising upset, the Indonesian parliament elected Abdurrahman Wahid as the new president of Indonesia, defeating Megawati Sukarnoputri, the popular leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle. Wahid was a Sufi cleric as well as an adept politician with a reputation for honesty and moderation.
Rioting, bombing, and growing unrest continued to plague Indonesia in 2000. On June 4, 2000, separatists declared Irian Jaya (also called West Papua) an independent state. Wahid flatly opposed independence for the province, which contains sizable copper and gold mines. Unlike East Timor, there is little international support for an independent Irian Jaya.
In fall 2000, Suharto failed twice to show up in court to face corruption charges of embezzling $570 million in state funds, but his lawyers insisted he was too ill to stand trial. In July 2007, prosecutors filed a civil suit against Suharto, seeking $440 million that he had embezzled and $1.1 billion in damages.
In the fall of 2000 and winter of 2001, President Wahid came under increasing criticism for corruption and incompetence. He was blamed for not stopping ethnic clashes and killings in Aceh, Irian Jaya, the Moluccas Islands, and especially in Borneo, where the Dayak people turned against Madurese immigrants, slaughtering hundreds. Wahid was forced from power in July 2001, and Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri assumed the helm.