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Indonesia & East Timor Digest

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March 14, 1998

Financial Times - March 14, 1998

Sander Thoenes, Jakarta - General Wiranto, Indonesia's new military commander, has emerged as a new voice of moderation and even a potential alternative to President Suharto.

Jakarta Post - March 14, 1998

Jakarta – The Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) has filed a pre-trial lawsuit against the police over the arrest of the playwright Ratna Sarumpaet and eight other activists last Tuesday.

Business Times - March 14, 1998

Leon Hadar – The Clinton Administration, frustrated over its inability to persuade President Suharto to embrace economic and political reforms, has decided to adopt a "wait-and-see" policy towards Jakarta, sources say.

March 12, 1998

Sydney Morning Herald - March 12, 1998

Jennifer Hewett, Washington – The International Monetary Fund, responding to criticism of its tough approach to Indonesia, has indicated it is willing to be more flexible in negotiating changes to the country's economic reform program.

Far Eastern Economic Review - March 12, 1998

By Margot Cohen in Jakarta and Bandung, West Java – By all accounts, the speech was masterly. "Human rights have practically disappeared," intoned President Suharto. "The law offers almost no guarantee or protection... Power is centred absolutely in one hand, that of head of state.

Reuters - March 12, 1998 (extracts)

Nick Edwards, Singapore – The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said on Thursday a global effort was needed to put out Indonesia's spreading forest fires.

"We need the resources of the world, not just Asian people, to help put these fires out," Suvit Yodmani, regional director for UNEP in Asia and the Pacific, told Reuters by telephone.

Jakarta Post - March 12, 1998

Jakarta – On-campus rallies calling for reform and protesting against the skyrocketing prices of basic commodities gathered steam yesterday as tens of thousands of students and lecturers from nearly 40 universities took part.

March 11, 1998

Lusa - March 11, 1998

Sydney – Timorese leaders in Australia described the re-election of Suharto on Tuesday for the Indonesian presidency as a structural and political weakness in the Southeast Asian nation that it would only be solved if the vice-president Habibie, could guarantee a proper transition in the post-Suharto era.

Sydney Morning Herald - March 11, 1998

Louise Williams, Jakarta – With a standing ovation in place of voting, President Soeharto was re-elected unopposed by a loyalist Assembly yesterday, the cheerful back slapping inside the Parliament far removed from the growing unrest on the streets.

March 10, 1998

Associated Press - March 10, 1998

Joseph Coleman, Yogyakarta – About 10,000 students protested in President Suharto's hometown today, demanding Asia's longest-serving leader quit just as he was sworn-in for another five years in power.

In a major display of defiance, the students took to streets around the campus of Gadjah Mada University, one of Indonesia's largest and oldest colleges.

Kyodo - March 10, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights has urged police to investigate the mysterious disappearances of two dissidents early last month, an English-language daily reported Tuesday.

Reuters - March 10, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesian police detained nine activists after a pro-democracy event in north Jakarta on Tuesday that was timed to coincide with the election of President Suharto to a seventh five-year term.

AFX-Asia - March 10, 1998

Surabaya – Some 400 students clashed with security forces which prevented them from marching to another university today, witnesses said.

Anti-riot police and soldiers beat the students with clubs and at least one was rushed to hospital bleeding from the head.

March 9, 1998

Sydney Morning Herald - March 9, 1998

James Woodford – The rapidly expanding role of the Defence Force in training Indonesian soldiers, including crack special forces, risks associating Australia with human rights abuses, a senior defence official at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta has warned.

Agence France Presse - March 9, 1998 (extracts)

Indonesia's President Suhahrto was Monday granted unspecified new security powers to counter social unrest and subversion.

The People's Consultative Assembly which is set to return Suharto Tuesday to office for a seventh term gave no details of the powers in a decree announcing the move.

March 8, 1998

Reuters - March 8, 1998

Phil Smith, Jakarta – Indonesia is being criticised for not implementing the International Monetary Fund's new set of economic reforms quickly enough and President Suharto has come under increasing pressure from agencies and governments to get things going.

March 7, 1998

Kyodo - March 7, 1998

Washington – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will not disburse a second 3 billion dollar installment of its loan to financially beleaguered Indonesia before April, an IMF spokeswoman said Friday.

New York Times - March 7, 1998

Seth Mydans, Jakarta – As an electoral assembly moved through its scripted steps Friday toward the expected re-election of President Suharto next week, the new players on the Indonesian scene – international financial traders – voted no-confidence in the economy.

The Nation - March 7, 1998

Bangkok – A Group of human-rights advocates successfully concluded two international seminars on East Timor this week despite continued "low intensity harassment" by Thai authorities.

Down to Earth - March 7, 1998

The following is a summary of two messages (translated) received today from a group in West Papua.

South China Morning Post - March 7 1998

Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Indonesia's Golkar party says it will trust President Suharto with sweeping new special powers - but was at a loss to describe what they will entail.

"We will give the powers and it means we trust the President to report it to Parliament," senior Golkar member Marwah Daud Ibrahim said yesterday.

Reuters - March 7, 1998

Jakarta - Police will question the chief editor of an Indonesian magazine that was rapped by the government for a "degrading" cover on President Suharto, the Jakarta Post reported on Saturday.

March 6, 1998

Lusa - March 6, 1998

Sydney – The Australian government announced on Thursday that it had granted seven new licences to explore oil in the Sea of Timor.

Associated Press - March 6, 1998

Geoff Spencer, Balikpapan – Five men, some with shoes, others barefoot, trudged up the smoky forest highway toward a wall of flames.

"We're here to put out the fire. The authorities gave us these," one said, proudly referring to a battered plastic water tank strapped to his back.

Until now, he explained, they had to beat flames out with tree branches.

Posted on reg.indonesia - March 6, 1998

1997

July 8: Indonesia's currency, the rupiah, begins to fall. The Government widens its rupiah trading band from 8 to 12 percent.

July 24: Several Asian currencies - the Thai baht, the Malaysian ringgit, the Philippine peso and the Indonesian rupiah - all slump as confidence in the region rapidly deteriorates.

South China Morning Post - March 6, 1998

Ian Stewart in Kuala Lumpur and Jenny Grant in Jakarta

Hunger is forcing thousands of Indonesians to flee to Malaysia, police there said yesterday.

A senior police officer said recent batches of illegal immigrants from Indonesia sought arrest so that they could enjoy proper meals.

March 5, 1998

Agence France Presse - March 5, 1998 (extracts)

Jakarta - Some two thousand students of a state university in Padang, West Sumatra, held a rally Thursday to reject a further term in office for President Suharto and demand reforms.

Lusa - March 5, 1998

Jakarta – Three alleged Timorese activists were arrested in Dili by the Indonesian authorities on 26 February, Indonesian news agency Antara said on Wednesday.

Reuters - March 5, 1998

Nick Edwards, Singapore – Choking smog that blanketed much of Southeast Asia last year is set to be even worse in 1998 as tinderbox-dry Indonesian forest is consumed by fire, experts said on Thursday.

New York Times - March 5, 1998

Seth Mydans, Jakarta – As a decision nears on whether to infuse billions of dollars in international aid into Indonesia, a close look at President Suharto's performance shows a pattern of evasions and half-measures on the economic reforms he agreed to recently.

March 4, 1998

Lusa - March 4, 1998

Lisbon – A group of six Timorese who had sought refuge at the Spanish embassy three weeks ago left Indonesia to Portugal on Tuesday, the Portuguese Red Cross announced.

The six Timorese who have complained of persecution by the Indonesian police, left Indonesia in a KLM flight.

South China Morning Post - March 4, 1998

Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Jailed trade unionist Muchtar Pakpahan warned a senior US State Department official yesterday against donating aid to Indonesia without demanding political reforms.

The Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Stanley Roth, met Pakpahan for one hour at a hospital where he is receiving medical treatment for a lung tumour.

Agence France Presse - March 4, 1998

Jakarta – Thousands of Indonesian students shouting "reject Suharto" rallied at two campuses Wednesday to demand the resignation of their country's veteran ruler, witnesses said.

Associated Press - March 4, 1998

Christopher Torchia, Jakarta – Thousands of banner-waving university students demanded President Suharto's ouster Wednesday – the largest display of anger yet over the economic crisis that has Indonesia in an upheaval.

March 3, 1998

Kyodo - March 3, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesia's foreign exchange reserves dropped to 16.33 billion U.S. dollars at the end of February from 17.07 billion dollars Feb. 16, and from 28.85 billion dollars in June 1997, before the country began to face its current economic crisis, the central bank said Tuesday.

SiaR - March 3, 1998

Jakarta – According to SiaR sources, General Wiranto, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces is to be replaced in mid-March. Wiranto will fill a post in the new cabinet as Minister of Defence and Security. The source mentioned that General Subagyo, presently Chief of Staff of the Army (KSAD), will replace Wiranto, while the post of KSAD will be filled by Lieut.Gen. Prabowo.

Kompas - March 3, 1998 (posted by Tapol)

123 demonstrators who took part in a 'Red-and-White Brigade' demonstration in Jakarta on 11 February are to be charged under Law No 5/PNPS/1993 regarding involvement in political activities, according to the public affairs officer of the Jakarta police force. The law allows a maximum penalty of five years.

March 2, 1998

Agence France Presse - March 2, 1998

Jakarta – The Indonesian military Monday formally denied persistent rumours an army battalion had deserted its base on the outskirts of Jakarta and accused an outlawed leftist group of trying to stir up trouble.

March 1, 1998

Associated Press - March 1, 1998

Balikpapan – Wildlife officials said Saturday that they had found the charred remains of dozens of rare animals in a national park in eastern Borneo, where forest fires are burning.

Info-Pembebasan - March 1, 1998

[The following is a slightly abridged translation of an interview with the coordinator of the Central Committee Leadership of the People's Democratic Party (Komite Pimpinan Pusat - Partai Rakyat Demokratik, KPP-PRD), Mirah Mahardika.]

Los Angeles Times - March 1, 1998 (Excerpts)

Asia: As the Indonesian president prepares for a 7th term amid social and financial upheaval, the White House decides that pressing for radical change could lead to chaos.

February 28, 1998

South China Morning Post - February 28 1998

Jenny Grant, Samarinda – Towns and villages in East Kalimantan province are suffering a severe water crisis, with river levels drastically lowered by drought and fire-fighting.

The low level of the capital Samarinda's main Mahakam River has made water from it unfit for people to drink.

Reuters - February 28, 1998 (extracts)

Jakarta - The essential qualifications to be Indonesia's vice-president are a low profile and a good supply of jokes to entertain President Suharto, outgoing Vice-President Try Sutrisno has said.

Try, who is retiring at the end of a five-year term in March, was quoted by the Jakarta Post on Saturday as telling local reporters that Suharto was like a "ship's captain."

February 27, 1998

Kompas - February 27. 1998

Palembang – The LBH (Institute for Legal Aid) regional offices in Palembang were attacked at 1 PM today (26/2) by a group of unknown assailants. Stones and bottles of beer were thrown, causing some damage to the facilities, mostly broken windows.

Jakarta Post - February 27, 1998

Jakarta – With the General Session of the People's Consultative Assembly only three days away, students across Java staged demonstrations yesterday to press their demands for lower prices and political reform.

Major peaceful demonstrations were staged in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Purwokerto and Kudus.

Lusa - February 27, 1998

Dili – Fighting between Timorese guerrillas and Indonesian forces in the East Timor region of Ermera on Wednesday caused the death of two resistance members and one Indonesian soldier, according to a military source.

Straits Times - February 27, 1998

Jakarta – Muslim politician Amien Rais, a longtime critic of the Suharto administration, yesterday said that he was withdrawing his bid for the presidency and supporting the re-election of Mr Suharto for a record seventh five-year term.

Australian Financial Review - February 27, 1998

Jakarta's vice-presidential battle may help Soeharto save face, suggests George J. Aditjondro

February 26, 1998

Agence France Presse - February 26, 1998 (Extracts)

Jakarta – More than 3,000 students rallied noisily in the Indonesian capital Thursday, blaming President Suharto and his government for the crisis which has crippled the country.

Far Eastern Economic Review - February 26, 1998

A defiant Suharto gambles everything on an unorthodox financial plan that could cost Indonesia the IMF's support. In the process, the region's one-time leader may have become its biggest liability.