Indonesia’s factions disagree on need for political change

INDONESIA’S main factions in its top policy-making body yesterday stood united in backing President Suharto’s statement of accountability but differed on the need for political reform.

The ruling Golkar party and the powerful Indonesian armed forces (Abri) downplayed calls for change, pointing to the government’s impressive record over the last five years, while the minority United Development Party (PPP) and the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) pressed for “clean governance”.

Golkar, represented by party executives Mr Ary Mardjono and Mr Fahmi Idris, was the first of the five factions in the People’s Consultative Assembly to take the floor in endorsing Mr Suharto’s development targets, which he outlined in a report on Sunday.

Mr Mardjono noted that the last five years under the President had seen a reduction in poverty and a general improvement in people’s welfare.

He said that 1.3 million Indonesians lived below the poverty line. The government, he said, was also taking steps to increase facilities for science and technology, education and transportation.

He said that economic growth in the last five years was consistently high at 7.1 per cent, but acknowledged that the recent monetary crisis would impede further development.

He added that Golkar supported the President’s call for an IMF-Plus scheme to overcome the country’s deepening economic crisis.

President Suharto had said that the economic reforms prescribed by the International Monetary Fund were not working and that alternative solutions were necessary.

The IMF-Plus plan is said to include large-scale privatisation of state-owned companies, a bankruptcy code, the reduction and rescheduling of external debt, and the adoption of a currency board system.

Abri faction leader Hari Sabarno said that a “way out” of the current situation was to implement the IMF-Plus scheme.

The smaller PPP and PDI, however, did not refer to the scheme in their speeches. The PDI said that it was “open to the government working with foreign countries and international organisations, as long as it was beneficial”.

“We will reject anything that threatens the country’s survival,” party spokesman Bambang Mintoko said.

The Muslim-based PPP, while highlighting the economic strides the government had made, also pointed to the corruption and the monopolistic practices of business conglomerates.

“These have weakened the country’s economic resilience,” noted PPP member Alfian Darmawan.

Like the PDI, the PPP said it would be difficult to recover unless the government initiated changes in the political realm along with the IMF-sponsored reforms.

He did not state explicitly the measures to be taken, but some analysts suggested he was hitting out indirectly at government support for Golkar.

On Tuesday, PPP member Endin Soefira said that the government needed to do away with its policy to get civil servants to support “a certain grouping” – an obvious reference to Golkar.

“One way to create clean governance is to free civil servants from such a burden, so they can serve no one but the people regardless of their background,” he said.

To combat corruption, he suggested probing the wealth of ministers and officials, by subjecting them to auditing procedures before they take up their posts.

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