V-P favourite Habibie quits company posts

He is expected to be sworn in next week.

INDONESIA’S Research and Technology Minister B. J. Habibie yesterday quit as head of three state-run companies, a week ahead of his expected appointment as the country’s next vice-president.

The Antara national news agency reported that he resigned as chief executive of aircraft manufacturer IPTN, shipbuilder PT PAL and arms manufacturer PT Pindad.

The three represent the largest of the 10 strategic state enterprises which he oversees in his capacity as Indonesia’s technological tsar.

Antara reported that Dr Habibie was succeeded at IPTN and PT PAL by the deputy chief executives – Mr Hari Laksono and Mr Adwin Suryohadiprojo – respectively, and at PT Pindad by its technology chief Budi Santoso.

Dr Habibie’s resignation comes as little surprise as it was expected that he would relinquish his portfolios as he prepares himself for election as President Suharto’s running mate by the 1,000-member People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), which began its 11-day session last Sunday.

The five factions in the MPR, the country’s top policy-making body – Golkar, the armed forces (Abri), United Development Party, Indonesian Democratic Party and regional representatives – have all nominated him for the vice-presidential post, making his appointment almost a certainty.

Next Tuesday, faction heads will meet Mr Suharto – who is also the sole candidate for the presidential post – to seek formal approval for the 61-year-old German-trained engineer’s appointment.

They will then meet Dr Habibie to confirm his willingness to be nominated.

Both the new President and Vice-President will be sworn in on Wednesday.

Protests continue on campuses

As the MPR’s electoral committee made its final preparations to elect the new leaders and provide the incoming government with policy guidelines, thousands of students from various institutes across Indonesia yesterday continued peaceful protests against Mr Suharto’s renomination for a record seventh term.

In Padang, West Sumatra, 2,000 students of the state-run Andalas University rallied to demand political reform.

Marching around the campus with posters and banners, they described the current economic crisis as “a catastrophe” and said that Mr Suharto’s leadership “can no longer be forced upon the nation”.

“We call for a national leadership succession and reject the nomination of the candidacy of retired general Suharto for a seventh time,” they said in a statement.

Rallies were also held in Jakarta at the state-run University of Indonesia (UI), one of the oldest universities and a centre of political activism.

About 20 UI students yesterday met Abri’s MPR faction here to press their demands for political reform. They also rejected outright the speech Mr Suharto made to the assembly on Sunday in which he outlined the successes and shortcoming of his just-completed term.

“We reject his statement because there is no proof of what is being done to eliminate corruption, collusion and nepotism in this country,” said student leader Iman Aziz.

The students, all wearing the university’s yellow jackets, argued that it was wrong to view the current crisis as having started six months ago.

Said one representative: “It started long before that. The government has been in power for the last 32 years. What has it done to rid Indonesia of its problems? We need political reform.”

Abri’s faction leader, Lieutenant-General Yunus Yosfiah, said the military recognised the need for reform.

But he added: “A lot of people are crying out for reforms without seeing the changes taking place in this country. Let me tell you that the biggest political change is reflected here in this meeting where we are willing to listen to student demands.”

Any changes had to be carried out gradually, he said, adding that “we don’t want to go the way of the former Soviet Union. Drastic change will be a disaster”.

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