Crisis is not political, say Golkar legislators

Indonesia’s democratic and constitutional reforms progressing ‘on schedule’.

Regional Economic CRUNCH

LEGISLATORS of the ruling Golkar party yesterday maintained that the crisis confronting Indonesia now was an economic one with no political overtones.

Mr Theo Sambuaga, a Golkar party executive, brushed aside suggestions that the problems had their root cause in the country’s political system.

“I do not buy that argument,” he said at a news conference.

“This is an economic crisis. In political terms, you can see as well as all of us here that the political agenda is running well.”

He pointed to the general election last year, the installation of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) and the current assembly session as proof of this.

He said: “All are on schedule based on a democratic and constitutional system and all the people’s aspirations are met.

“Of course, we do know that aspirations and demands are increasing but we are trying to accommodate such demands.”

Golkar member Dien Syamsuddin said the crisis stemmed from economic considerations – the depreciation of the rupiah against the US dollar due to margin trading by fund managers outside Indonesia and the not-too-strong economic fundamentals of the country.

He acknowledged, however, that the economic malaise could result in political problems for the country, with certain groups exploiting the crisis for their own purposes.

He did not name any group, but senior government officials have in recent weeks been referring to the banned People’s Democratic Party (PRD) as being behind moves to destabilise the government.

Their comments took place against a backdrop of escalating protests as President Suharto prepared to be re-elected for a record seventh term in office.

Hundreds of students demonstrated in the central Java city of Yogyakarta while several others staged hunger strikes in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung to demand political and economic reform.

Some 400 students staged a similar protest at the University of Indonesia on Monday.

Analysts believe that Mr Suharto would return to take power despite calls for him to stand aside over the deepening economic crisis.

Mr Sambuaga said yesterday that Golkar was supporting him for another term “because most of the 200 million Indonesians still want him”.

“We should obey the people’s voices, who still want Suharto to be their president for the five years to come,” he said.

“As a democratic country, we believe that this choice is right.”

Another Golkar member, Miss Marwah Daud Ibrahim, said that Indonesia needed the President’s leadership even more now that the country was entering a very uncertain phase with the economic crisis.

“There is no other way. We need a strong man like him,” she said.

The Golkar legislators also disclosed that the MPR would issue a decree later this week to give extra powers for Mr Suharto.

Said Mr Syamsuddin: “We need to safeguard the momentum of the development process and prepare for any social conflicts that might arise as a result of the economic crisis.

“If there is an emergency, people will be assured that the President is still in charge.”

But some observers believe that the extra powers being sought is to give Mr Suharto’s successor a constitutional basis to declare a state of emergency and assume direct command of all military and regional units, should the occasion arise.

The MPR members ended their closed-door party and committee meetings yesterday. They will gather today in an open session to respond to Mr Suharto’s address at the assembly inaugural on Sunday.

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