Suharto to be given ‘extra powers to handle emergencies’

Nature of new powers not made known, says Golkar member.

ALL five factions of Indonesia’s top policy-making body have agreed to grant special powers to President Suharto whom legislators believe is the only leader able to bail the country out of its economic crisis.

Members of the ruling Golkar party said yesterday that a decree would be passed by the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) on Monday, a day before Mr Suharto is elected for another term in office, granting him extra powers in dealing with emergency situations.

They said that the rationale for the powers was to “secure national development” and the unity of the sprawling archipelago that comprises some 17,000 islands.

“We feel it is necessary to give the President more powers to deal with any situation that can threaten national unity,” Golkar member Marwah Daud Ibrahim told The Straits Times.

“The challenges of globalisation and the current economic crisis we are facing justify the need to increase his powers.”

However, she was not able to elaborate on the nature of the new powers.

“Nobody knows what these special powers entail,” she said earlier at a news conference.

Similar questions by reporters to other Golkar members also drew a blank response.

But Golkar party executive Din Syamsuddin noted that the powers given were “in line with the constitution and aspirations of the people”.

“It is a constitutional instrument necessary for keeping this country together,” he said.

MPR sources said that the request for extra powers came from Mr Suharto to give his successor a constitutional basis with which to declare a state of emergency and assume direct command of all military units and regional authorities, should the occasion arise.

Analysts believe that such powers would be necessary if Mr Suharto’s successor was a civilian, such as Research and Technology Minister B.J. Habibie, who is now slated to be Vice- President.

If Dr Habibie assumes the No 1 post, he would need additional powers given his limited base of support particularly from the powerful Indonesian armed forces, Abri.

Golkar legislators, however, downplayed any link between the extra powers and the thorny issue of succession.

“There is no connection because this law has been in existence for some time,” party executive Theo Sambuaga told The Straits Times.

“It is wrong to view it negatively as a move towards a dictatorship.”

He said that the powers were first granted to Mr Suharto in 1988 and revoked in 1993 after the MPR deemed it unnecessary.

Golkar members, meanwhile, maintained that the incumbent President was the only person who could save Indonesia from its current problems.

Noted business tycoon Tanri Abeng: “We believe that he can bring us out of this crisis given his leadership and experience.

“He will lead us into the next century.”

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