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Indonesia & East Timor Digest

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February 13, 1998

MateBEAN - February 13, 1998

Dili – Joao, 20, a citizen of Limanaru village, Raerobu, Sub-district Atabae, District Bobonaro, East Timor, had mysteriously disappeared from Guico Public Health Clinic (Puskesmas). An unknown armed group shot and kidnapped him.

Reuters - February 13, 1998

Indonesia's security forces plan to tap phones to monitor dissidents calls and pull the plug on conversations that are deemed political, a newspaper said on Friday.

Associated Press - February 13, 1998

Irwan Firdaus, Sukamandi – In the most violent day of protests yet in Indonesia's economic crisis, thousands went on the rampage in at least eight towns today, venting their anger against Chinese traders they blame for soaring prices and mass unemployment.

Business Times - February 13, 1998

Yang Razali Kassim, Singapore – In total defiance of the financial markets, and acting on a script by President Suharto, the top brass of ABRI, the Indonesian military, further consolidated their ranks this week behind Research and Technology Minister B J Habibie as possible heir apparent.

MateBEAN - February 13, 1998

Dili – Six University of East Timor (UNTIM) students were brought to trial, last Wednesday (11/2). Aniceto Guterres Lopes and Vincente Daton Igon, lawyers from the HAK (Legal, Justice and Human Rights) Foundation accompanied the six students to the Court.

February 12, 1998

Reuters - February 12, 1998

Raju Gopalakrishnan, Jakarta – President Suharto accused unnamed groups on Thursday of using Indonesia's economic crisis to undermine his government as the country announced the appointment of a new armed forces chief.

Reuters - February 12, 1998 (Extracts only)

Washington – The IMF is headed for a showdown with its third largest borrower on Thursday, insisting Indonesia was not ready for a rigid currency regime and highlighting political uncertainties there.

Associated Press - February 12, 1998

Christopher Torchia, Jakarta – It wasn't a bomb, but the box found next to a bank machine in an airport was meant to send a warning. Marked "explosive with remote," the package of plastic pipes and electric wires carried this warning: "Bring down prices or it will happen in other places."

Financial Times - February 12, 1998

Indonesia's plan for a currency board may look attractive. But it is a high-risk gamble that could cause huge damage. The superficial appeal of fixing the rupiah is clear, given that the currency's plummet to only a third of its pre-crisis valueh as wreaked havoc, especially to corporate balance sheets.

Surya - February 12 (Summary only from Tapol)

Dili – Six students of the University of East Timor have gone on trial on charges of 'torturing' three members of the armed forces. The trial commenced on 11 February.

The six [all political science students] are: Francisco de Deus, 20; Domingos da Silva, 25; Silveiro Baptista Ximenes, 23; Juvinal dos Santos Moniz, 22; Bernardino Simao, 23 and; Vicente Marquez da Crus, 21.

Wall Street Journal - February 12, 1998

Margot Cohen, Jakarta – Fadli Zon has a vision. The former student activist imagines his countrymen cycling slowly down Jakarta's Jalan Thamrin, a central boulevard normally choked with cars. Instead of Western clothes, everyone will be wearing sarongs made of rough cloth. "If necessary, we'll go backwards 10 or 15 years," he says fervently.

Independent Journalists Association (AJI) - February 12, 1998 (posted by Tapol)

Eighteen members of the People's Democratic Alliance, ALDERA, were arrested at crack of dawn Thursday by a force of 15 policemen, several of whom were in civvies. The police forced their way into the organisation's Bogor, West Java office and rounded up everyone there, without saying a word. The were taken away on three police vans to police headquarters in the city.

February 11, 1998

New York Times - February 11, 1998

Seth Mydans, Surabaya – The military officer seemed puzzled when asked about the giant Tactica armored water cannon that was parked beside him, in front of the glass-and-chrome Delta Plaza Shopping Center. "Vehicle?" he asked. "You mean those taxis over there?"

February 10, 1998

Sydney Morning Herald - February 10, 1998

Louise Williams, Jakarta – Hundreds of people marched through Jakarta's main business district yesterday protesting against rising prices and unemployment, just a day after the armed forces paraded 25,000 troops in a massive show of force and warned against demonstrations.

February 9, 1998

Wall Street Journal - February 9, 1998

Raphael Pura, Jakarta – A food crisis is closing in on Indonesia. The coming crunch could compel the beleaguered country to seek at least $1 billion in emergency funds for short-term food subsidies to supplement an International Monetary Fund-backed financial rescue package announced last month.

Tapol - February 9, 1998

The Asian Executives Poll recorded in the Far Eastern Economic Review (5 February 1998) shows that most businesses in the region will have no confidence in an Indonesia under Suharto's continuing leadership.

Sydney Morning Herald - February 9, 1998

Louise Williams, Jakarta – Riots over rising food prices hit drought-stricken eastern Indonesia over the weekend as the chief of the armed forces led thousands of troops bristling with firepower in a daunting public display in central Jakarta.

Reuters - February 9, 1998

Jakarta – About 200 people attacked and set on fire shops and vehicles in an eastern Indonesian town in protest against price hikes, the Jakarta Post reported on Monday. It said at least 16 shops, two cars and two motorcycles were damaged or set on fire during the disturbances on Sunday in Ende town on Flores island.

February 8, 1998

New York Times - February 8, 1998

Seth Mydans, Semari – When hundreds of rough-looking men burst through the alleyways of the nearby town of Kraton two days ago, throwing stones and waving sharpened sickles, most of them came from here in Semari, a placid village of farmers and fishermen.

February 7, 1998

South China Morning Post - February 7, 1998

Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Indonesia yesterday estimated the country's foreign debt at US$137.4 billion – higher than previous official figures – and announced it was drafting a new bankruptcy law to deal with the nation's private debt. "Companies not able to solve their debt problems... must have a legal solution.

International Herald Tribune - February 7, 1998

Michael Richardson, Singapore – A senior U.S. commander has expressed concern that Indonesia could be on the verge of social and political instability. The question of domestic turbulence is critical to the U.S.

Reuters - February 7, 1998

Jakarta – At least two shops were burned and seven others damaged in an eastern Indonesian town on Saturday during a protest against price hikes triggered by the currency crisis, the official Antara news agency reported.

February 6, 1998

Lusa - February 6, 1998

Lisbon – The eight East Timorese who have sought shelter one week ago at the Spanish embassy in Jakarta left to Portugal on Thursday, a source at the diplomatic mission told Lusa.

The youth, with ages ranging from 18 to 29, are expected to arrive in Lisbon on Friday.

New York Times - February 6, 1998

Seth Mydans, Surabaya – At precisely 3 p.m. on Thursday, the heavy blue gate of the Gunawan steel plant slid open and hundreds of young men poured through to hear an announcement they dreaded. Would their factory reopen in the morning, and would all of them still have jobs if it did?

Sydney Morning Herald - February 6, 1998

Louise Williams, Jakarta – Unemployment in Indonesia has jumped by more than five million due to the economic crisis, it was revealed yesterday as the armed forces staged a show of force across Jakarta following rural food riots earlier this week.

February 5, 1998

Sydney Morning Herald - February 5, 1998

Louise Williams, Jakarta – The president of the World Bank, Mr James Wolfensohn, has conceded that the bank "got it wrong" in Indonesia, failing to predict the country's economic collapse and to prevent the growth of monopolies and corrupt practices.

February 4, 1998

Agence France Presse - February 4, 1998 (extracts only, posted by Tapol)

Singapore - A top Indonesian Muslim leader has accused President Suharto's children and associates of primary responsibilty for the country's debt crisis and likened their business operations to organised crime.

Associated Press - February 4, 1998 (Extracts only, posted by Tapol)

Opposition figure Megawati Sukarnoputri Wednesday called on her supporters not to take part in violent protests against the government despite an ongoing economic crisis. "Please avoid violent acts in any form", she said in a statement.

Her plea follows an outbreak of social unrest in several parts of the islands of Java and Sulawasi in recent days.

Wall Street Journal - February 4, 1998

By Jay Solomon and Kate Linebaugh

Jakarta – The world's fourth-most-populous country is running out of medicines.

February 3, 1998

Wall Street Journal - February 3, 1998

Raphael Pura, Jakarta – Trying to project Indonesia's political future has become a national obsession, as President Suharto prepares to begin his seventh term next month amid the toughest economic downturn in more than 30 years.

Jakarta Post - February 3, 1998

Jakarta – The Armed Forces (ABRI) reaffirmed yesterday its commitment to renominating President Soeharto even if there was a change in its leadership.

ABRI spokesman Brig. Gen. A. Wahab Mokodongan said the Armed Forces choice of Soeharto was part of its "strategic plan" to help restore the ailing Indonesian economy.

International Herald Tribune - February 3, 1998 (compiled by our staff from dispatches)

Jakarta – Violent protests have again erupted in key parts of Indonesia, with thousands of people burning shops as they challenged higher food and fuel prices, according to police and news reports Monday.

Wall Street Journal - February 3, 1998

Raphael Pura, Jakarta – Asia's crumbling financial markets have plunged Indonesia into deep trouble. But domestic politics could keep it there.

Southeast Asian nations are suffering from many of the same economic ills, but Indonesia stands alone in one critical way: More than any other major Asian nation, it is effectively run by one man.

February 2, 1998

InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS) - February 2, 1998

Kafil Yamin, Jakarta – Child malnutrition continues to be a blot on Indonesia's impressive record of poverty reduction in the last three decades.

The Buisiness Times - February 2, 1998

Yang Razali Kassim – Indonesia's political tension triggered by the financial crisis took a new twist last week when some prominent members of the elite, including the Wanandi brothers, were quizzed by the security authorities in connection with a bomb blast in the capital on Jan 18.

Dow Jones News - February 2, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesia's State Logistics Agency, Bulog, won't be releasing in February price controls it maintains over nine basic goods, including sugar, cooking oil, and wheat flour, Bulog President Beddu Amang said Monday.

February 1, 1998

Human Rights Watch (Asia Division) - February 1998

The rise in prices of basic goods such as rice and cooking oil has led to violent protests across Indonesia, much of it aimed at the ethnic Chinese minority who dominate the retail economy.

Agence France Presse - February 1, 1998

Jakarta – Fishermen angered by a poor catch and rising prices of basic commodities have rioted in Indonesia's Central Java province, a report said Monday.

Police in the northern coastal district centre of Rembang arrested 21 people over the unrest there and in several other nearby towns some 300 miles east of Jakarta, the Jakarta Post added.

Asiaweek - February 1998

Sangwon Suh – Lukman is a supervisor for a construction project in Central Jakarta. But the luxurious apartment complex the 38- year-old was helping build has been put on hold, a casualty of Indonesia's liquidity crisis and drastic economic slowdown. Lukman and his fellow workers are to be laid off.

Human Rights Watch - February 1998

Indonesia had one of the most tumultuous years in its modern history: economic collapse spurred student-led demands for political reform, bringing President Soeharto's three-decade rule to an end in May. His successor and protegé, Vice-President B.J.

January 31, 1998

Toronto Star - January 31, 1998

Paul Watson, Cikampek – On dust-blown flats that used to be good farmland, a grand shrine rises to honour the greed and sheer gall of Indonesia's first family.

President Suharto and his extended family have their fingers in every conceivable pie in Indonesia - from cellular telephone networks, to power plants, toll roads, banks, and oil and gas exploration.

January 29, 1998

Financial Times - January 29, 1998

Sander Thoenes, Jakarta – The International Monetary Fund is to approve its second tranche of (£1.7bn) in stand-by credits to Indonesia in February, earlier expected, in recognition of the country's radical reforms and bank restructuring, an IMF official said yesterday day.

January 28, 1998

Publico - January 28, 1998

Joaquim T. de Negreiros, Lisbon – Joao Carrascalao, Chairman of the Timorese Democratic Union (UDT), is unbending: UDT will not take part in the first resistance overseas congress. There are various reasons, but one determining factor is his rejection of Ramos Horta's status as Xanana Gusmao's overseas representative.

New York Times - January 28, 1998

Seth Mydans - Jakarta, Jan. 28 One,by one, most of Minarsih's friends at an electronics factory here were taken aside and quiety fired. Too ashamed to tell her, they simply disappeared, returning to the villages they had left years ago in search of fortune in the big city.

Reuters - January 28, 1998

Angry mobs have looted and trashed dozens of shops owned by ethnic Chinese in Indonesia"s Central Java province because of rising prices, an official said Wednesday.

The Guardian - January 28, 1998

Scapegoats are suffering for a financial crisis few understand. Nick Cumming-Bruce reports from Jember, East Java

January 27, 1998

Tapol - January 27, 1998

The Alliance of Independent Journalists has sent a strong protest to the Jakarta daily, Media Indonesia for sacking one of its journalists, Meilani Dhamayanti. She was sacked for her report of an interview with the chairperson of the PRD on 20 January. The item entitled "The person guilty of the bomb blast" included just one paragraph from the interview.

South China Morning Post - January 27, 1998

Jakarta – A prominent ethnic Chinese businessman said yesterday the military intelligence agency had cleared him of involvement with a bomb explosion in Jakarta last week.

Tycoon Sofyan Wanandi said military intelligence investigators had found nothing after an hour of questioning to link him to a bomb blast.

Sydney Morning Herald - January 27, 1998

John Aglionby, Jakarta – Forest and brush fires have flared up again in Indonesia and are threatening a bigger crisis than last year, when more than 2 million hectares were burnt and choking smog spread from Australia to Thailand.

Wall Street Journal - January 27, 1998

By Darren Mcdermott and Jathon Sapsford

Indonesia unveiled sweeping reforms of its bloated banking sector, but raised the specter of a debt moratorium as some Indonesian companies will be granted a "pause" in their foreign-debt payments.

The reform package announced Tuesday morning, buoyed Indonesia's fragile currency, which surged dramatically.