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Pro-democracy Weekly (MBR) - No 7, Week III, December 1997

[The following is a translation of the text of a leaflet sent to ASIET by the Mega-Bintang-Rakyat Democratic Coalition. The leaflet was distributed widely in urban kampungs in a number of Indonesia cities.]

Suharto gravely ill, the Rupiah falls even further, Suharto's renomination opposed

Not long ago we were surprised that president Suharto had to have total rest for ten days. This resulted in widespread speculation that political uncertainty will clearly become even worse if the president's health deteriorates. Wasn't one of the reasons for the tragedy of 1965 also the illness of president Sukarno (1)? Last year didn't the president have to be treated in Germany because of a severe kidney complaint?

Political uncertainty in Indonesia will become even worse if Suharto dies. Because since the New Order has been in power, the power of the president has been unlimited. There has been no distribution of state power as must be the case in a democracy. Certainly there are legislative and judicial institutions such as the DPR (2) and the Supreme Court, but these two institutions are mere puppets of Suharto. So if Suharto dies, things cannot continue as they are. This means political uncertainty will come. That is the thinking of most people.

This issue has bewildered the authorities. There has even been rumours that Suharto had died. Because of this, the authorities have tried to reassure the people. The State Secretary, Moerdiono, met with journalists and assured them that Suharto would attend the ASEAN meeting in Kuala Lumpur, as proof that Suharto's illness is not serious. But Suharto did not go. This further strengthened the believe that Suharto's illness is already very serious. As a result, the value of the Rupiah fell to 5,800 rupaih per US dollar (at the official rate). On the market however, you needed 6,200 rupiah to but a dollar. The results are clear: prices (primarily of imports) are getting more expensive and more and more companies close because they are unable to pay their debts [in US dollars].

The political situation has also become more critical for the Suharto regime. Not long ago the Indonesian Law Students Senate Association (Ikatan Senat Mahasiswa Hukum Indonesia, ISMAHI), rejected Suharto's renomination [for president]. Then at demonstrations commemorating human rights day in Yogyakarta, Solo, Semarang and Purwakerto, students also rejected Suharto's renomination. Most recently it has been the turn of New Order's [own] figures to resist Suharto. The Petition of Fifty (3) explicitly rejected Suharto's renomination.

The thing that endangers Suharto is not just that his renomination has been rejected and a number of figures who are supported by the people have emerged as presidential candidates. Spontaneous riots by the masses are also a very serious threat. These riots are rebellions on a small scale. They spread everywhere and in the end can become a large and broad uprising. All of this has been done spontaneously by the people.

At the time of the economic crisis and the president's illness, riots erupted again in Medan and Kendari. In Medan traders and students united to resist troops evicting them from their place of trade. While in Kendari, students and drivers united to resist traffic police who constantly extort money from drivers.

So what is the meaning of all this? It means that the crisis which is overwhelming the New Order regime has come from a number of different sides. The crisis is not just an economic crisis, but a crisis of the system itself. Of the economy, politics, morality, the country's leadership, the trust of the people, the environment. This situation is difficult to fix.

Both the system and the country's leadership are both abhorrent. Because of this, there must be a change in the system and the country's leadership. Meaning there must be change in the presidency and state institutions. Suharto must be replaced by someone who sides with and is supported by the people. State institutions must be replaced with regulations which are just, democratic and advance the country. If there is not change in the presidency, the situation will become even more uncertain because Suharto is no longer able to lead this country.

Thus if the system is not changed, the institutions of the New Order will be proven to have failed. This failure can be viewed in three aspects:

  1. The New Order has not brought any meaningful advancement;
  2. The New Order has not brought justice;
  3. The New Order is experiencing a crisis.

The crisis will worsen In a few more days, Christians will be celebrating Christmas day. While the Islamic community will begin the fasting month and Lebaran (4). This all means that the people's needs will become greater. The impact on the economy will be to push up inflation (a large increase in prices). Imagine, if prices which at the moment are already rising steeply, increase even further. According to an analysis by the daily newspaper Kompas, we will face hyper-inflation.

Aside from the price increases, workers will soon be sacked because their companies have gone bankrupt or because the companies have to reduce the size of their work force. This means that levels unemployment will get even higher. Imagine, how difficult our lives will become. Prices increases and many people being sacked. In such a situation as this will we still believe in Suharto? Will we not wish for change? Or will we still hope that Suharto is capable of improving this deplorable situation because of who he is?

Army Chief Wiranto says that the armed forces are ready to deal with any unrest. This means that the armed forces are convinced that there will be unrest soon. We must push so this situation too is able to bring about change, that is replacing Suharto and the state institutions. The situation is already ripe [for change], however our problem is that we are not able to push things forward any further.

So that this situation can result in change, we must continue to organise demonstrations and demand a change in the presidency and improvements in the state institutions, such as: abolish corruption, reduce prices and so on. Although the crisis has already occurred, without demonstrations with demands such as these, the situation will go from bad to worse.

Translators Notes:

1. In the context of sharpening political confrontation between the military and the Indonesian Communist Party, in August 1965, president Sukarno fell temporary ill. With all sides wandering whether Sukarno would be able to continue in office, coup rumors abounded. It was in this atmosphere, that a group of left-wing middle ranking officers attempted to preempt an alleged coup against Sukarno on September 30, which provided a pretext for Suharto and right-wing military officers to seize power.

2. DPR: Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat, Peoples Representative Assembly (Parliament). Consisting of 500 members, 425 elected from the three officially recognised political parties during the general elections: Golkar (the state party), the United Development Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party. The remaining 75 members are appointed by the president from the military (who are not allowed to vote).

3. Petition Of 50 (Petisi 50): A dissident group which emerged in 1980 lead by discontented elements of the elite from two traditional political stream, nationalism and Islam; along with a number of former military officers. The group was named after it issued a petition, signed by over fifty people, which raised issues of democratic rights and accused Suharto for seeing himself as the personification of the state ideology, Pancasila.

4. Lebaran: Islamic day of celebration at the end of the fasting month.

[Translated by James Balowski]