Suharto the man to lead Indonesia out of crisis, says Abri

Regional Economic CRUNCH

THE Indonesian armed forces (Abri) has maintained that President Suharto is the best person to lead the ailing Indonesian economy to recovery and that economic reforms take precedence to any political change in the country.

“Political reform is needed to accelerate development to improve prosperity. But we believe restoring the country’s battered economy is more crucial now and should have top priority,” said Abri spokesman Brigadier-General Wahab Mokodongan.

The Jakarta Post yesterday quoted him as saying that the military was backing Mr Suharto and his bid for a seventh consecutive five-year term when a 1,000-member People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) meet next month to elect a president.

BG Wahab said he doubted critics who claimed that the economy would pick up if the President stepped down.

“Abri still trusts President Suharto to lead the country,” he said, stressing that this would be the case even if there was a change in military leadership.

“I can tell you that Abri will not reverse its support for the President even when the incumbent armed forces chief is replaced,” he said.

His comments came amid rife speculation that the current military commander Feisal Tanjung will be replaced later this month by army chief Wiranto.

“Even if we have three successive Abri chiefs ahead of next month’s assembly, we will not change our choice.”

He said that the influential military would formally announce its presidential and vice-presidential candidate at the end of this month.

Abri would support Mr Suharto’s choice of Vice-President, no matter who it was, he added.

“We will even support Amien Rais if Pak Harto chooses him for the post,” he said, referring to the outspoken Islamic scholar who is also chairman of the 28-million strong Muhammadiyah Muslim organisation.

He denied reports that Abri had already named its vice-presidential candidates. “We have never said that our choices for the vice-presidency were incumbent Try Sutrisno or General Wiranto,” he said.

Military sources here said that there was support from different groups within Abri for various candidates, including Research and Technology Minister B. J. Habibie, who is known to have close links with Gen Tanjung.

Abri socio-political chief Yunus Yosfiah said recently that Abri would back a civilian for the post of Vice-President if necessary, dispelling the notion that it would support only a figure from the armed forces.

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