Vol. 12, No. 2,856W - The American Reporter - March 18, 2006

by Andreas Harsono
American Reporter Correspondent
Jakarta, Indonesia

JAKARTA -- New Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri is arguably th= e most popular leader in Indonesia, having fervent supporters in all walks = of life, from movie stars to street vendors, from Muslim clerics to Christi= an activists in this vast archipelago of 220 million people.

Her nationalist Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle also has the big= gest -- albeit less than a majority -- number of seats in the parliament, m= aking her position much stronger than that of her predecessor, Abdurrahman = Wahid.

But Megawati also faces a very complicated situation in a country whose = economy is in ruins following the Asian economic crisis, whose legal system= has been corrupted by three decades under former dictator Suharto, and who= se provinces -- such as Aceh in northern Sumatra and Papua in eastern Indon= esia -- are rife with separatism, not to mention the ethnic and religious f= ighting that has broken out in more than a dozen places.

Megawati faces two immediate tasks. The first is how to pull off aface-s= aving exit for her long-time friend Abdurrahman Wahid, who continuesto decl= ine to hand over presidential power, and whose supporters might ina day or = two swamp Jakarta and other provincial capitals to protest hisremoval.

Human rights activists in Jakarta have begun to talk aboutgranting Wahid= a special title such as "guru of the nation," or holding awelcoming party = for "the return of a pro-democracy activist."

Wahid has long been known a= s an advocate of human rights andreligious tolerance. His friends worldwide= are human rights champions.

"He does not hurt the heart of the people. Indeed, he makes smallmanager= ial mistakes. But he is basically a good man," said Tedjabayu, aformer poli= tical prisoner in the 1970s, who previously worked with Wahidin Indonesia's= Legal Aid Institute.

Megawati's second task will be to announce her cabinet line-uptomorrow. = Her advisors include respected economists Kwik Kian Gie andLaksamana Sukard= i, retired general Theo Syafei, veteran politiciansSutardjo Surjoguritno an= d Sabam Sirait, as well as a number ofbusinessmen.

But Megawati is under pressure to include ministers from otherpolitical = parties as well as the military. Both camps helped her to gainthe presidenc= y. Jakarta's culture of back-room deals and money politicsmight hamper the = ability of Megawati, whose grip on economic problems hasbeen criticized, to= choose the best team.

She also tends to favor economists who used to wor= k for theSuharto regime and have close links with the International Monetar= y Fundand the World Bank.

Critics said Megawati should not work with these technocrats onthe groun= ds that they have no experience working under political pressure.Rizal Raml= i, an economic aide to Wahid, frequently clashed with thetechnocrats as wel= l as the Washington-based twin institutions that areheld responsible by man= y for the country's economic problems.

Megawati is also very likely to gi= ve more say to the military whendealing with security problems in Aceh and = Papua. Just like hernationalist father, President Sukarno, Megawati will no= t talk with rebelsseeking independence from Indonesia.

To some extent, Wahid was more flexible than Megawati. Wahid wasalso a w= itty and courageous person when dealing with Indonesia's armygenerals, who = have habitually involved themselves in Indonesia's politicsand been accused= of human rights abuses over the last 50 years.

Demands have been made by human rights groups and former politicalprison= ers on every post-Suharto government to implement institutionaljustice, esp= ecially to bring to trial officers who allegedly abused humanrights and Suh= arto cronies who lined their pockets with billions ofdollars. Many of these= corrupt figures are closely linked to the politicalparties that brought Me= gawati into the chief executive position yesterday.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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