‘8 years’ to return to normalcy

INDONESIA IN TRANSITION

PERIOD OF POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY

THE transition of power from former President Suharto to Dr B. J. Habibie has ushered in a period of political uncertainty in Indonesia, analysts said.

Research carried out by the Indonesia’s Institute of Social Sciences (Lipi) indicate that it would take the country up to eight years to attain normalcy.

Dr A. S. Hikam, political analyst and Lipi staff member, noted that the sudden fall of Mr Suharto had opened a Pandora’s box of political possibilities for the country with a population of 200 million.

“Just too many things are happening in a relatively short period of time,” news reports yesterday quoted him as saying.

Analysts point to Dr Habibie’s links to Mr Suharto as a liability for him to continue as the nation’s third President.

Said a senior government official: “He cannot last because of his past and current association with Mr Suharto. The backlash against Habibie will only grow stronger.”

But removing the German-trained engineer would not solve the problem because of a lack of alternatives, said the official.

He said: “We don’t have much choice but to turn to the military. But there is apathy and a strong aversion to a general taking power again. No one wants to go back to the Suharto past.”

Compounding this is the lack of control on the reform process which some say is “spiralling out of control”, with the proliferation of political parties.

While many support the new lease of freedom to set up parties, some, particularly in the business community, believe this could be detrimental to national stability.

Said business tycoon Sofjan Wanandi, the head of the Gemala Group: “There were so many riots with three parties in an election campaign. The problems can only become worse with more political parties.”

A senior armed forces (Abri) officer said that Indonesia was returning to the era of the 1950s and 1960s, when constant squabbling among the civilian elite held back economic development.

Said the source: “The real question is whether these political parties can fill hungry stomachs. At this point, they have come up with nothing concrete to the country’s problems.

“Slogans on democracy and human rights don’t mean anything to most Indonesian villagers. When they realise that these political parties cannot deliver, they will call for a return to authoritarian rule.

He added: “Limited freedom but they get to fill their stomachs.”

Intelligence estimates indicated that up to 80 million Indonesians were living below the poverty line, leading to political repercussions.

He said : “The picture is very bleak and uncertain.

“People don’t think rationally if they don’t have food and we are talking of more rioting and more looting if problems are not resolved. Already crime rates have risen dramatically.”

Martial law could be imposed if there were signs that the country was breaking up, he said, adding: “That is the worst case scenario but the military will have to step in to control the situation if things get out of hand.”

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