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Indonesia & East Timor Digest

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March 21, 1998

ASIET - March 21, 1998

On Friday March 13, three leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) of Indonesia were captured in a flat in Jakarta. The three leaders are Mugianto, Nesar Patria and Aan Rusdianto.

March 20, 1998

Kompas - March 20, 1998

Jakarta - Minister for Education and Culture Wiranto Arismunandar has commissioned a special report on the clashes between students and security forces which occurred at the University of Solo (UNS) on 17 March 1998. He has given specific instructions that the report should provide a detailed chronology of the events which eventually led to 29 students being injured.

Australian Financial Review - March 20, 1998

Geoffrey Barker – Indonesia is on the brink of hyperinflation and is committing major breaches of its economic reform agreement with the International Monetary Fund, a confidential Department of Foreign Affairs report has warned the Federal Government.

March 19, 1998

South China Morning Post - March 19, 1998

Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Three Indonesian students will be charged with subversion after police allegedly found "communist material" in their apartment, in the latest round of charges against political activists.

Concerned People's Committee - March 19, 1998

[The following is an abridged translation of a chronology of an action by the Concerned People's Committee (Aksi Komete Peduli Rakyat). Please note that this was the second day of protest at the Unila university. 120 were arrested on the first day and released after protests and lobbying.

The Age - March 19, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesia had ordered an American human rights activist, who accused the United States military of "directly supporting" repression in Indonesia, to leave the country, a source said yesterday.

A member of the security forces told Mr Allan Nairn, a journalist and activist, he would be expelled, the source said.

Asiaweek - March 19, 1988

Tom McCawley, Jakarta – In the end, Indonesia's banking reform was more like amputation than elective surgery. But nearly everyone agreed a radical step was necessary to save the patient. Jakarta announced March 13 that it was closing 38 banks, taking over seven others and recapitalizing nine.

Reuters - March 19, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesian police and students clashed in the West Java city of Bandung as security forces sought to prevent campus protests against the government spilling onto the streets, the Kompas newspaper reported on Thursday.

Straits Times - March 19, 1998

Jakarta – Indonesia's economic woes should be blamed on the government's failure to implement reforms, not on deficiencies in the International Monetary Fund's programme for the country, the agency's chief, Mr Michel Camdessus, told Time magazine in an interview.

Far Eastern Economic Review - March 19, 1998

Salil Tripathi, Jakarta – If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Perhaps International Monetary Fund chief Michel Camdessus should have kept that investment axiom in mind before committing $33 billion to Indonesia--where President Suharto personally signed off on a wrenching reform package in January without a peep of protest.

Jakarta Post - March 19, 1998 (abridged)

Jakarta – New Minister of Home Affairs R. Hartono scoffed at a suggestion that President Soeharto's proposal for ministers to donate their first year's salaries to the poor would open the door to corruption.

Associated Press - March 19, 1998 (abridged)

Jakarta – Police used tear gas, clubs and high-pressure water hoses to subdue thousands of stone-throwing student protesters today. At least 60 people were detained in the most violent of the anti-government demonstrations that began erupting on campuses weeks ago.

Far Eastern Economic Review - March 19, 1998

Murray Hiebert with S. Jayasankaran in Kuala Lumpur – A late-afternoon telephone call alarmed the retired Malaysian civil servant. In a frightened voice, a woman told him she had just arrived by boat from Indonesia, and was calling from outside his Kuala Lumpur apartment complex.

March 17, 1998

South China Morning Post - March 17, 1998

Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Only hours after President Suharto swore in his new Cabinet, his golfing partner, who is now also his trade minister, showed where his loyalties lay, putting the Government in a worrying light.

And it did not bode well for demands by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to see economic reform before continuing its rescue package.

New York Times - March 17, 1998

Tim Weiner, Washington – The Pentagon has been training Indonesian military forces since 1992, despite a congressional ban intended to curb human rights abuses by those soldiers, Defense Department documents show.

March 16, 1998

Sydney Morning Herald - March 16, 1998

David Jenkins – What is one to make of the new Indonesian Cabinet, unveiled by a weary-looking President Soeharto as his nation grapples with its worst economic crisis in 30 years?

Sydney Morning Herald - March 16, 1998

Louise Williams, Jakarta – President Soeharto's new Cabinet signals a retreat to personalised politics with the appointment to key portfolios of his powerful daughter, Siti "Tutut" Hardiyanti Rukmana, his golfing mate, timber baron Mohamad "Bob" Hasan, and the return of several ministers linked to recent corruption scandals.

March 15, 1998

Asiaweek - March 15, 1998

Sangwon Suh – To many observers, Maj.-gen. Agum Gumelar's proposal was a confirmation of their suspicions. When the South Sulawesi regional commander called for an oath of loyalty to Gen. Wiranto on Feb. 20, shortly after the latter was sworn in as the new armed forces chief, it was seen as further evidence that there was a rift in the military.

Asiaweek - March 15, 1998

Amien Rais has many personas. He is professor of political science at Gadjah Mada University in Jogjakarta in Central Java. He heads the Muhammadiyah, a 28-million-strong conservative Muslim organization focusing on social and educational activities.

March 14, 1998

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.

Sydney Morning Herald - March 14, 1998

This week Indonesia's People's Assembly unanimously voted President Soeharto another five-year term. But he can't buy a vote of confidence from the IMF, or from many of his own people. Louise Williams reports.

New York Times - March 14, 1998

Seth Mydans, Jakarta – As Indonesia enters one of its most difficult years, President Suharto announced Saturday a Cabinet marked by loyalty and family connections rather than economic expertise.

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.

Sydney Morning Herald - March 14, 1998

By David Jenkins – So who is to blame for the mess in Indonesia, a nation that appears to be sliding inexorably towards political, social and economic chaos?

Can everything be laid at the feet of President Soeharto's New Order Government, in power for 32 years and widely criticised for fostering a climate of corruption and nepotism?

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.

March 12, 1998

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Down to Earth - March 7, 1998

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

March 6, 1998

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.

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.

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.

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.

March 5, 1998

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.

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.