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.
Indonesia & East Timor Digest
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Scapegoats are suffering for a financial crisis few understand. Nick Cumming-Bruce reports from Jember, East Java
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.
January 27, 1998
[This item shows the insidious campaign now being mounted by some top generals to hound the opposition and provoke anti-Chinese progroms. If they succeed, things could get very rough for minority groups up and down the country after the Chinese and Muslim festivities of this week come to an end - Tapol.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
Andrew Perrin, Dili – The troubled Indonesian province of East Timor is facing yet another catastrophe - this one generated not by politics but by the failure of monsoon rains due to the El Nino effect.
January 26, 1998
Jakarta – The Armed Forces (ABRI) made a surprising decision yesterday to delay all planned arms purchases, including the Russian Sukhoi30K jet fighters.
According to an AFP report on 23 January, the trial started in Dili of David Ximenes 44, who is being charged with "separatism". The charge carries a maximum sentence of life. (The report does not mention the article under which he is being charged.)
Louise Williams, Jakarta – In the first sign of a co-ordinated opposition movement, pro-democracy figurehead, Megawati Soekarnoputri, and Muslim leader, Amien Rais, publicly denounced President Soeharto yesterday in front of masses of cheering students in the central Javanese city of Yogyakarta.
By Jay Solomon and Peter Waldman
Jakarta – The local office of the Crown Worldwide moving company has asked its insurer in London to clarify an urgent point for some concerned customers: Are household goods awaiting shipment covered against rioting?
January 25, 1998
George J. Aditjondro – Since seizing power in the mid-1960s, Indonesian President Suharto has translated his absolute political power into a massive family fortune. The Suharto family is worth an estimated $16 billion according to Forbes magazine, and $35 billion according to one estimate attributed to the CIA.
January 24, 1998
The report starts with describing the situation at the Parliament building like a "market place" with protest delegations coming and going every day. These groups were allowed to proceed under the watchful eye of the security forces. The report provides a more in-depth report of a demonstration organised by a group called SIAGA (the name means READY)
Indonesia's Chinese have risen far. But in accumulating wealth they have aroused envy, and as Louise Williams reports, when times get tough, they have further to fall.
January 23, 1998
Geoff Spencer, Jakarta – Spooked by Indonesia's uncertain political future and worried about a mountain of debt, panicky traders dumped the rupiah Thursday, pushing the battered economy into a new phase of desperation.
Jakarta – Although still in critical conditions and being monitored round the clock in intensive care, Gus Dur has begun a rapid recovery following a stroke several days ago. On Wednesday night, only one day following brain surgery, the leader of Nahdatul Ulama was already trying to get down from his hospital bed.
Darren Mcdermott – Indonesia's financial system is teetering on the edge of paralysis.
Dirk Beveridge, London – The Asian financial crisis and falling oil prices have left Indonesia in a double bind.
Recent stock market plunges combined with the wildly tumbling rupiah has devastated the Indonesian economy, stirring unrest and food-buying panics, and spreading concerns that millions of people will suffer hard times for years to come.
Louise Willliams, Jakarta – Indonesia is facing the threat of hyperinflation after the rupiah plunged for a third day amid warnings of more price increases and rising social tension.
A senior Indonesian economist, Ms Marie Pangestu, said the currency's collapse was one of the most dramatic of any post-war economy.
January 22, 1998
Dili – The accused Falintil bomb-maker, Constancio da Costa dos Santos alias Aquita, tore apart the District Attorney's official response paper on Wednesday 21 January, 1998. The incidence that took place in the courtroom of Dili State Court surprised Judge I Made Nandu and District Attorney Eko Purwanto and the audience packed in the courtroom.
Hamish Mcdonald – He is short, speaks shrilly and gesticulates wildly, has a decidedly Teutonic manner from his German education, has the ear of his president, and wants to build aircraft, rockets, ships and nuclear power plants. He is also the man who bought the East German Navy.
FALINTIL activist Constancio stunned the court at the hearing of his trial last week when he angrily tore up the prosecutor's response to his demurrer which had challenged the indictment read out at the first hearing.
John McBeth, Jakarta – Supremely accomplished in the art of political survival, President Suharto had little trouble stifling opposition at home as long as the economy – flawed as it may have been by nepotism and corruption – stayed on track. But he cannot control market forces. With Indonesia now drifting towards a crippling, years-long recession, his political future is in doubt.
Jakarta – More than 100,000 workers in Central Java and East Kalimantan have joined the rising number of jobless in the country.
The Indonesian Observer reported on Tuesday that at least 100,000 construction workers in Central Java had lost their jobs as the prolonged currency turmoil brought construction projects to an abrupt halt.
By Darren Mcdermott and Jay Solomon
Indonesia's failure to present a plan for repaying a crushing load of corporate debt is helping sink the rupiah to new depths.
January 21, 1998
Without doubt it is the women of East Timor who have suffered the most. While they have undergone what can only be described as martyrdom, the international community has chosen to turn a blind eye to their pleas for help.
Jakarta – Two provincial leaders of the opposition Indonesian United Democracy Party (PUDI) were arrested when Indonesian security forces raided a branch of the small party in Malang, East Java, a report said yesterday.
January 20, 1998
Lisbon – The five East Timorese who have sought refuge last Thursday on the French embassy in Jakarta are expected to arrive in Lisbon on Tuesday, a source at the Portuguese Red Cross told Lusa on Monday.
Jon Land – Foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer announced on January 12 that the federal government now recognises that East Timor has the right to self-determination.
January 19, 1998
The East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) has received a report from a reliable source that Lucas da Costa, 49, an East Timorese professor from Surabaya, Indonesia, who disappeared on 23 December, 1997, has been released after being arbitrarily detained by the Indonesian authorities.
Jay Solomon and Kate Linebaugh, Tangerang – On a lazy Saturday afternoon in this industrialized zone 40 kilometers west of Jakarta, a group of workers lounge near the gates of the Korean-owned shoe factory where they work, bemoaning their worsening plight. During the past six months, they note, 75% of their colleagues have been laid off, while living expenses have jumped.
Jakarta – A bomb exploded in an apartment in a central Jakarta slum area Sunday night, local residents and police said Monday, while a top military official accused a left-wing party unrecognized by the government as being behind it.
Officials said police have found several bombs in the apartment but only one exploded, injuring three people, one seriously.
Indonesia's best-known labor leader, Muchtar Pakpahan, has long been a vocal opponent of President Suharto. Detained since mid- 1996, the 44-year-old head of the outlawed Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (known as SBSI), is currently on trial for the crime of insulting President Suharto. If convicted, he faces the death penalty.
January 17, 1998
Seth Mydans, Jakarta – The International Monetary Fund got virtually everything it wanted from President Suharto. Yet on Friday, one day after he reluctantly agreed to a major restructuring of Indonesia's economy, its weakened currency resumed sliding.
Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Tension over soaring prices once again spilled over into rioting yesterday in East Java.
Rioters smashed windows, burned goods and forced shopkeepers to slash prices on basic foodstuffs.
January 16, 1998
Jakarta – Anti-Indonesian rebels shot dead two militiamen in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in an ambush on a car carrying a village leader, the official Antara news agency reported on Friday.
Louise Williams, Jakarta – Indonesia's President Suharto today sacrificed the business privileges of his children and cronies in a sweeping economic reform agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
Jakarta – Some twenty prominent government critics, including Megawati Soekarnoputri, Amien Rais, Ali Sadikin and Supeni, urged the government to make urgent economic and political reforms at a meeting here yesterday.
January 15, 1998
Following a meeting with General Feisal Tanjung, commander in chief of the armed forces, US Secretary for Defence William said that the IMET programme would be continued. He promised General Tanjung that he would immediately press Congress for the programme to be restored.
ETHRC has received reports that Elizio Pinto Guterres Soares (also known as Mito), 25, an East Timorese man studying in Semarang, Indonesia, was arrested and tortured by members of the Indonesian security forces on 1 January, 1998,
Jakarta – Five youths from the troubled Indonesian territory of East Timor spent the night in the French embassy here today after jumping the gate and demanding to be allowed to leave for Portugal, sources said.
Jenny Grant, Jakarta – Almost 1,500 employees of Indonesia's top timber tycoon have taken voluntary retrenchment from six of his plywood companies in east Kalimantan.
About 1,400 staff have taken voluntary redundancy as part of a rationalisation in Mohammad "Bob" Hasan's Kalimanis Group, the Republika daily reported.
January 14, 1998
Dili – Four East Timorese have been found dead days after they were abducted from their village by a group of unidentified armed men, a local official said.
The four victims from Coilima village, about 60 km west of the territory's capital Dili, were among a group of eight people seized on January 3, Francisco Martins Dias, a local district chief, said.