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Indon govt plans seminar on Sukarno's 1966 exit

Business Times - April 2, 1997

SN Vasuki – As Indonesia's ruling establishment braces itself for crucial parliamentary elections on May 29, analysts are puzzled by the government's plan to hold a seminar on the dramatic events that led to the exit of President Sukarno in 1966.

The seminar, to be held later this month, has the backing of President Suharto who said on Monday that it would help provide Indonesians with "accurate information" on what really happened in 1966. However, the proposal has attracted criticism from opposition leaders including the late Mr Sukarno's daughter, Ms Megawati, who was ousted from the leadership of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) last year.

Senior government officials have explained that the seminar will focus on a speech delivered by Indonesia's first President in 1965 before a special session of the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). Mr Sukarno had delivered the speech, referred to as Nawaksara or accountability, in the aftermath of an abortive coup attempt on Sep 30 1965 by elements of the now-banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

While that segment of Indonesian history still remains a subject of intense debate, the popular perception is that Mr Sukarno did not resist efforts by the PKI to take charge of the country. Hence members of the provisional MPR rejected efforts made by Mr Sukarno in his famous speech to defend his role in the episode. "Nawaksara led to a direct confrontation, pitting Sukarno against the people's representatives, so that they decided to revoke the people's mandate," President Suharto said on Monday at a function commemorating a monument to the Spirit of 1966.

Historians said that the failure of Mr Sukarno in 1965 to convince legislators about his leadership abilities eventually led to his exit in March 1966.

The seminar is expected to focus on the circumstances that led Mr Sukarno to write a famous letter to President Suharto on March 11, 1966, asking him to take adequate measures to restore authority following the 1965 coup attempt. Mr Suharto succeeded Mr Sukarno, initially as acting president and the MPR eventually elected him as President in 1968. However, the original copy of that letter, known by its acronym as Supersemar, is missing.

Indonesia's Sports and Youth Minister Hayono Isman said that he proposed the seminar in order to clear any potential disputes over the issue of presidential succession. In that context, analysts said that the seminar remained relevant to contemporary Indonesia because the country is now grappling over the delicate issue of political succession after Mr Suharto.

However former PDI leader Megawati Sukarnoputri has opposed the plan to organise a seminar on her father's speech.