Ian MacKenzie, Jakarta – Ribbons of fire along irrigation channels designed to drain a huge peat bog are helping sustain noxious smog across Indonesia's Kalimantan provinces, forestry and agricultural experts said on Tuesday.
Indonesia & East Timor Digest
November 11, 1997
Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Three isolated tribes in the Molucca Islands are being forced to leave their settlements in search of food as the drought bites harder in the eastern provinces.
Already it has cost more than 500 lives.
Jakarta – At least 50 companies have proposed to the government that they can downsize their employees following the unstable economy due to recent monetary crisis.
November 10, 1997
Jakarta – Rumours said that the Indonesian military, especially the intelligence community planned to ban IMPETTU (the East Timor Students' Association) considering the fact that they cannot control the Organisations' activity anymore.
Michael Shari in Jakarta and Sheri Prasso in New York – For a region that has felt shock after shock since July, some relief came in the final days of October. The $40 billion International Monetary Fund bailout of Indonesia boosted the rupiah – battered by a 30% plunge since July – by more than 10% and brought a breath of life back to the stock market.
November 9, 1997
Liz Walsh – Three European ambassadors are to go to East-Timor early in the new yeras as part a new EU initiative announced in Dublin last week by British Foreign Seretary Robin Cook. The initiative comes on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the Dili massacre on Wednesday in which more than 250 civilians were shot dead by the Indonesian military which invaded the country in 1975.
Kenneth Van Toll, Banjar Rejo – Mardjosantono waved his wiry arms over his head as he stood on the crusty sun-baked bottom of Lake Keruku in East Java.
"Usually there's water to the north, south and west of here. The water level reaches 3.5 metres (11.5 feet)," the slightly built farmer said gesturing across the dried-out lake.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists has issued a statement protesting against attempts by the Indonesian armed forces (ABRI) to prevent the press from reporting statements by Bambang Trihatmojo and Probosutejo about the closure of 16 banks.
Jim Della-Giacoma, Jakarta – Indonesia faces a mixed week ahead with praise expected from the IMF for its economic reform plans, but also the start of a court challenge to cleaning up the key banking sector.
November 5, 1997
Jay Solomon, Jakarta – The U.S. further underlined its commitment to helping Indonesia recover from its financial crisis Wednesday, in the hope of finally putting a stop to the contagion effect rippling out of Southeast Asia.
Holman W. Jenkins Jr – Not often do you hear an Asian dealmaker wishing an unpleasant fate on the head of one of the biggest founts of Asian dealmaking, the Suharto family circle of Indonesia.
Last week just such a fellow told me if there was to be a silver lining to the region's economic troubles, "the whole lot of them would be lined up against a wall."
Jakarta – Moves to deregulate the Indonesian economy following an IMF review are more a compromise than a reform measure, analysts say.
The government's decision to remove the National Logistics Agency's monopoly on the importing of wheat flour and replace it with a monopoly on distributing wheat flour is "a compromise solution," economist Rizal Ramli said.
November 4, 1997
Jakarta – Bambang Trihatmodjo, the middle son of Indonesian President Suharto, stepped up his attack on Indonesian Finance Minister Mar'ie Muhammad Tuesday over the liquidation of a bank of which he is a major shareholder.
Jim Della-Giacoma, Jakarta – Indonesian President Suharto's half-brother Probosutedjo said he had kept his PT Bank Jakarta open on Tuesday, defying a government order closing down the institution along with 15 other sick banks.
Jakarta – The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) said it welcomed Prosecutor Amrin Nain's call for the release of Dwi Sumaji alias Iwik, the accused in the case of the murder of Bernas journalist Fuad Moh. Syafruddin alias Udin. The prosecutor called for Udin's [should read Iwik - JB] release during the a court session at the Bantul regional court on Monday, 3 November.
Jakarta – The Indonesian armed forces are to send more officers abroad for training, especially to Britain and the United States, a report said here Tuesday.
Jakarta – Early this year, 31-year-old Bimo, who works in the private sector, and his wife decided to buy a house where they could raise their newborn daughter.
The couple was set to obtain a housing loan to buy a medium-sized house in Jakarta's suburbs. Their plan was going smoothly until August.
Lisbon – East Timorese abroad will hold a national congress here next March, called by independence leader Xanana Gusmao, who is serving a 20-year prison term in Indonesia, resistance sources said Tuesday.
The congress is to consider a charter of rights, freedoms and guarantees to be applied in the former Portuguese colony annexed by Indonesia in 1976, they said.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – Mobs of angry customers and employees gathered outside the branches of Indonesia's 16 liquidated banks yesterday, many refusing to believe they had lost most of their savings under the first reforms of the massive $US38 billion dollar ($54 billion) international bailout package.
November 3, 1997
Richard Borsuk, Jakarta – Indonesian bankers braced for a tense day of business Monday following Saturday's closure of 16 banks.
Raphael Pura, Semarang – PT Bank Harapan Sentosa depositors who came to its big branch here Monday looking for what remains of their money were met by armed police rather than smiling tellers.
"You might as well all go home, we have no more announcements to make," a security officer of the bank told them through a bullhorn. "There's no need to be here."
Louise Williams, Jakarta – The Soeharto Government has urged the public not to panic at the opening of business today after announcing the immediate liquidation of 16 non-performing Indonesian banks under an international economic rescue package worth up to $US40 billion ($57 billion).
Indonesia announced a spate of measures to shore up its economy as conditions to receive more than $30 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
Separately, Timor Putra removed President Suharto's son from his post at the Indonesian auto maker in a partial concession to calm concerns over the national car project.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – The massive bailout package for Indonesia goes some way to addressing economic distortions such as nepotism, favouritism and politically connected monopolies, but analysts say they are awaiting further details as well as the reaction of stock and money markets when trading opens today.
November 1, 1997
S N Vasuki, Jakarta – Private power firms, which are investing billions of dollars in new projects in Indonesia, are desperately trying to stall a government move to renegotiate power tariffs.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – Indonesia announced last night that it had reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a rescue package for its ailing economy.
On 7 August, the District Council bestowed the title of Honorary Citizen of Brasilia on the Timorese Resistance leader, Xanana Gusmao. The Ambassador of East Timor in Angola, Dr. Roque Rodrigues, received the title on behalf of Xanana Gusmao.
Geoff Spencer, Jakarta – Indonesia shut down 16 insolvent banks and planned other austerity measures Saturday, a day after receiving word of $33 billion in foreign loans to revive an economy hit hard by financial declines across Asia.
Finance Minister Mar'ie Muhammad called for calm and stressed the government would reimburse depositors.
For the first time, clandestine East Timorese fighters are building bombs. When one went off accidentally recently it introduced a new element into the East Timor problem and underscores the urgency of a resolution. The Indonesian Foreign Ministry says the explosives were intended to kill civilians in Dili indiscriminately.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – For fifteen days Pak Waska has been ready: waiting under the vast, concrete highway overpass, his work bag packed, his shirt neat and clean, the thick fumes of the crawling traffic swirling around his face.
October 30, 1997
When President Soeharto built himself a modern office block in the late 1960s, it was known for a time as the KISS building, an abbreviation of words borrowed from English – koordinasi, integrasi, stabilisasi and sinkronisasi. It was not long, however, before Indonesians were saying KISS stood for "ke istana sendiri-sendiri" – "to the palace one by one".
Tony Wright, Jakarta – The Prime Minister has told Indonesia's President Soeharto that Australia, in the spirit of "regional mateship", stands ready to dig deep as part of a major international rescue package for Indonesia's ailing economy.
Chris Lydgate in Singapore and Louise Williams in Jakarta – The Indonesian President's comments that the Singapore Government had agreed to offer a $US10 billion ($14.2 billion) aid package to Jakarta, separate from ongoing negotiations over an International Monetary Fund rescue package, have caused shock and confusion among the region's economic analysts.
The national car
October 29, 1997
The East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) is concerned for the safety of up to eight East Timorese men still in detention in Semarang and Dili, for their alleged involvement in the manufacture and possession of home-made bombs (see UA 23/97 and UA 23/97PR).
Bernice Han, Singapore – Indonesia's National Logistics Agency (Bulog), the state-owned food price regulator, is seen targeted by the International Monetary Fund for reform, a senior agricultural specialist based in Jakarta told Dow Jones Tuesday.
Semarang – Fifteen East Timor students from the East Timor Students' Association (IMAPTI) of Semarang had met members of Commission A (dealing with defense and security issues) of the Central Java Regional Parliament. They questioned the MPs on the bad treatment felt by four East Timor youth arrested recently by security officers.
Jakarta – The government is necessary to stop isolating ethnic Chinese from political life, an expert said.
"It is not healthy for our political development as the isolation will invite broad public curiosity," Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo told a gathering here on Tuesday.
October 28, 1997
Jakarta – Police and soldiers used sticks to break up anti-government protests by hundreds of students today in two cities.
Some students said they were protesting the planned re-nomination of Indonesia's President Suharto, who is likely to be re-elected unopposed to a seventh-consecutive term in March.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – The International Monetary Fund's rescue package for Indonesia is expected to be delayed until later this week after private talks reportedly stalled over politically sensitive issues such as the subsidised national car project.
Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Two East Timorese men could face the death penalty if found guilty of trying to topple the Government through terrorism.
October 27, 1997
Michael Shari in Jakarta, with Joyce Barnathan in Hong Kong – The 60 Indonesian blue-chip company executives summoned to Bank Indonesia, the country's central bank, on Oct. 10 all had something in common.
Jakarta – The number of cities covered by the thick haze from rampant forest and bush fires nearly doubled yesterday, amid uncertainty over when the annual monsoon rains would arrive.
Meteorologists said the number of cities covered by the haze rose from 22 to 41 as at yesterday morning, while at least four airports shut down because of poor visibility.
K.T. Arasu, Jakarta – The effects of the El Nino-induced drought hitting Indonesia could worsen sharply in the coming months, causing disease and hunger in many parts of the country, experts say.
Seth Mydans, Kuala Lumpur – Tigers and elephants are fleeing the burning jungles. Birds are falling from the murky skies. Schoolchildren are fainting at their desks. Ships are colliding at sea.
October 26, 1997
Jakarta – Outspoken Muslim scholar Amien Rais has suggested a national poll be held to determine whether the majority of Indonesians want President Suharto re-elected next year for a record seventh five-year term, the Jakarta Post reported yesterday.
Jakarta – The worst drought in half a century has devastated crop harvests by as much as 40 percent, the government said Friday. Officials had earlier warned of rice harvest failures in some drought-ravaged areas.
Lewa Pardomuan, Jakarta – Thick smog from rampant forest and bush fires spread to more cities in Indonesia on Sunday while uncertainties over the start of the annual monsoon rains lingered, meteorologists said.
Chris Johnson, Singapore – Choking yellow-grey smog over Southeast Asia has already closed factories, cancelled flights and lengthened queues in doctors' waiting-rooms.
But much worse could be in store if the raging forest fires across Indonesia are not put out soon – and for good.
October 24, 1997
Stephen Spencer, Canberra – The federal ALP has moved to dramatically recast major areas of its foreign policy, in what it frankly admits is a recognition that some areas, in particular Indonesia and land mines, could have been handled better in government.