Home > South-East Asia >> Indonesia

ASIET Net News 23 – June 7-13, 1999

 East Timor

 June 7 election  Aceh/West Papua  Labour issues  Human rights/Law  News & issues  Economy and investment
East Timor

Militia attack parents of Guterres Lopes

FORTILOS - Posted June 13, 1999

On Tuesday, 8 June, members of the Dadarus Red and White militia attacked Memo village, Maliana sub-district in the district of Bobonaro. The attack was directed at the parents of Aniceto Guterres Lopes, Director of the human rights organisation, Yayasan HAK. Some members of the family sustained injuries, while several people were taken into custody and are being held at Maliana Kodim (military command). One of those being held is Afonso Reis, 22.

The militia surrounded the house and pelted it with stones. When the people inside tried to flee, they arrested two people and tortured them. The two men are: Justino Goncalves dos Santos, 31 and Dinis dos Santos, 34, cousins of Aniceto.

The attack is believed to be linked to Aniceto's human rights work. The district head of Bobonaro, Guilherme dos Santos, also from Memo, has been known to make threats against Aniceto, warning that human rights activists should stay away from Bobonaro. 'If they come here, I'll deal with them,' he said at a meeting in the Bobonaro administration centre some months ago.

The antipathy between Aniceto and the Bobonaro district head goes back to 1996 when Aniceto defended the village head of Memo whom the latter had dismissed. Aniceto later took the case to the Administrative Court, PTUN.

The recent attack had been well planned. In the run-up to the election on 7 June, the local military issued threats, warning that if disturbances occurred during the election, the army and the militia would launch a bigger attack, which is what happened.

The action was supported by the E Timor People's Front (BRTT) whose chairman is Francisco Lopes da Cruz. When inaugurating the local branch of the BRTT recently, da Cruz said: 'The National Human Rights Commission can come here but other groups, such as the Students Solidarity Council and others claiming to be human rights organisations, as well as the UN, should beware.' He even warned that they could be shot.

Council establishes mission in Timor

Press Release SC/6689 - June 11, 1999

Adopts Resolution 1246 (1999) Unanimously; Ballot to Decide on Special Autonomy or Separation from Indonesia

The Security Council this afternoon decided to establish the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) to organize and conduct a popular consultation, scheduled for 8 August, to determine the Territory's future status, in keeping with the Agreement between Indonesia and Portugal of 5 May, and the Agreements between the United Nations and the two Governments.

Adopting resolution 1246 (1999) unanimously, the Council established UNAMET until 31 August and approved the modalities for the consultation, which will ascertain, on the basis of a direct, secret and universal ballot, whether the East Timorese people accept the proposed constitutional framework providing for a special autonomy for East Timor within the unitary Republic of Indonesia, or reject the proposed special autonomy, leading to East Timor's separation from Indonesia.

Welcoming the Secretary-General's intention to conclude a status-of-mission agreement with the Government of Indonesia as soon as possible and urging the early conclusion of negotiations for a timely deployment of UNAMET, the Council endorsed the Secretary-General's proposal that UNAMET be comprised of political, electoral and information components. The Council also authorized the deployment within UNAMET of up to 280 civilian police officers to act as advisers to the Indonesian Police in the discharge of their duties, and 50 military liaison officers to maintain contact with the Indonesian Armed Forces.

By the resolution, the Council stressed again the responsibility of the Government of Indonesia to maintain peace and security in East Timor to insure the integrity of the consultation and the security of international staff and observers. The Council welcomed, in that regard, the decision by the Government of Indonesia to establish a ministerial team to monitor the popular consultation.

Condemning all acts of violence from whatever quarter and calling for an end to such acts, the Council urged that every effort be made to make the Commission on Peace and Stability operative, stressing in particular the need for the Indonesian authorities to provide protection for members of the Commission in cooperation with UNAMET. The Commission, established on 21 April by representatives of the pro-independence and pro-integration sides, but not yet operational, has been entrusted with elaborating a code of conduct for all parties during the consultation process, ensuring the laying down of arms and disarmament.

The meeting, which began at 12:14pm, was adjourned at 12:17pm.

UN mission target of threats

Associated Presse - June 9, 1999

Dili -- The UN referendum oversight mission in East Timor has received "all sorts of threats" of hostile actions, a spokesman said Thursday. So far, no attacks have been carried out against the week-old outpost.

Most of the threats are coming from militias battling to keep the province part of Indonesia.

"We've received all sorts of threats," UN spokesman David Wimhurst told reporters during a news briefing. He said most of the information is coming second-hand from the opposing forces, who favor independence for the violence-torn province.

On August 8, voters in East Timor are expected to choose independence in the UN-sponsored referendum, and to reject an alternative that would give them autonomous status within Indonesia.

Wimhurst said the threats to the UN mission generally involve plans of "harassment or an intimidation campaign."

The spokesman said: "Much of that information seems to be solid." Wimhurst said the UN mission informs police of any threats it hears about, while emphasizing that East Timor is rife with rumors. "The situation here is tense," he added.

Many people fear the quarter-century of fighting that has claimed up to 250,000 lives will continue after the referendum, no matter which side wins.

UN officials, numbering about 100 with a steady flow of new arrivals, are working from a school complex on the outskirts of the regional capital of Dili.

Voting steady but lacklustre in East Timor

Agence France Presse - June 7, 1999

Dili -- East Timorese voted in a steady stream Monday in this troubled Indonesian territory, but interest in the elections was low, taking a back seat to a UN-sponsored ballot on self- determination in August.

"If we don't vote, it is not good for us," said one nervous voter at a polling station in this seaside capital. But then he grinned, and said although he had turned up and gone through the motions, he had spoiled his ballot, making it invalid.

The 124 polling stations in the Dili area and another 793 across the territory opened at 8am and closed at 2pm.

Only 43.9 percent of some 400,000 eligible voters in East Timor have registered, poll officials have said, one of the lowest levels in the country.

Among those not voting was the territory's Nobel laureate, Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo, whose assistant, Armandino, said that the bishop had no intention of voting and would remain in his residence for the day.

Said another voter, lined up with his wife and child: "Well, this time we just have to follow. But we'll vote on August 8."

Interest in the national Indonesian vote has been eclipsed by the ballot on August 8 to decide whether or not people want broad autonomy under Indonesia. The government has said it will consider offering independence if they refuse.

The August ballot was part of an autonomy offer agreed between Indonesia and Portugal at the United Nations on May 5.

Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975 and annexed it the following year but the United Nations continues to view Lisbon as the official administrator.

In Jakarta, Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas told reporters after casting his own ballot that he hoped the "ballot not the bullet" would determine the future of East Timor in August.

"I think [preparations for the August vote] are progressing quite well, gradually more and more [United Nations] civilian police are comming to help the maintanance of security there," Alatas said.

"We will overcome the last manifestation of insecurity and I am quite sure we will be able to create a conducive situation for a peaceful, free and fair popular consultation there," he said of fears that continuing violence, particularly by Indonesian military-backed militia, could scuttle the vote.

"We are overcoming the last remaining manifestation of conflicts between the two groups [pro-Indonesia and anti-Indonesia]," he said. "Let the ballot decide and not the bullet."

The magic of the white vehicle

Publico - June 3, 1999

Luciano Alvarez, Dili -- For 3 days, Publico accompanied a UN mission on a journey that took them over 500 kms of the disputed territory's terrain: Dili, Baucau, Lospalos, Viqueque and back to Dili."

"An island of contrasts, where intimidation by the pro- integration militias has terrorised the people, who speak only of independence. The breeze of freedom sweeps through the white vehicle of the United Nations that loosens tongues and rekindles hope in the Timor of the dazzling green mountains, of the disappearing rice paddies, where the arrival of the asphalted road has not changed primitive habits. The UN mission to East Timor returned to Dili, now absolutely certain of what it had previously only suspected -- that organising the 8 August referendum is "a mission almost impossible"

From Dili to Baucau: a nervous beginning

Dili, Sunday, 30 May, 7 am. BP (full name witheld for security reasons) is waiting at the entrance to the Makhota Hotel, visibly nervous. Thanks to the English course he took at the University of Dili, he was one of the first Timorese to get a job as a translator with UNAMET. "This is possibly the most important day of my life", said BP, before departing with the UN team whose task is a 3-day logistics drive around the territory. The main destinations are Lospalos and Viqueque, his native land."

"The first stop is Baucau, nearly 130 kms east of Dili. The road, which two weeks ago was totally controlled by pro-integration militias, is now clear. The only traces left by the paramilitary forces are the red and white (Indonesian) flags, hung up here and there, and the thatched huts set up by the roadside, where the integrationists had put up their roadblocks."

On the way to Lospalos: 20 years in a few minutes

All the inhabitants now gather round the two men who are speaking in Portuguese with the reporter from Publico. In that region, say the men, "there have been no problems with either the army or the militias", and the inhabitants of Daudare know, "because people have passed through" there, that on 8 August there will be a ballot "to choose between Indonesia and independence". "Here, we all want independence" they insist.

MB and RS (identities not disclosed for security reasons) have more questions than answers to put to the UNAMET team: "How will they (the Indonesians) know that we have not voted in favour of autonomy? How can you ensure we are not attacked the very next day? How are those who are up in the mountains going to be able to vote?" There were answers for the first two questions, but not for the third.

The conversation ends very awkwardly: a UNAMET information official in the group turns to BP and tells him to ask the villagers if they have TV. BP looks embarrassed, but puts the question to them. The men exchange glances, and then one replies: "No, we don't have electricity."

Someone speaks Portuguese in Raga

The militias had not been there either, but news had arrived that "the Timorese are going to choose what they want in August'. We want freedom'", he whispered to the reporters.

At around midday, Lospalos is deserted city. The region is inhabited by about 53,000 people, but in the city the number is only about two thousand. Hardly a vehicle passes along the Rua Luis Monteiro Leite -- formerly the main trading street under the Portuguese -- where the shops that sell just about everything are now in the hands of the Indonesians.

But the UNAMET team has its mind on other things. The meeting that had been arranged with the Chief of Police for 13.00 hrs. has been postponed until 17.00 hrs. (the Chief was at lunch), and the "hotel" where the UN mission is to stay is no more than a dingy 7-room "pensao". There are no premises in which to set up a local UN headquarters, and the infrastructures that do exist belong to the Church, and there is no guarantee that permission will be given for them to be used. Lospalos is, therefore, considered by UNAMET to be "a very complicated place", although at least there are no very serious problems with the militias."

According to many of the residents with whom Publico spoke, an old militia called Alfa has been operating in the city "for the last 3 years. A long time ago, it expelled all the men who were independence supporters. Nowadays, it just goes around frightening people at night, to keep up the fear", said the locals.

"It is quiet now, because the people realised that it is better to keep their mouths shut. They are intimidated, and stay quiet, but they are waiting to give their answer when they are called and asked for their opinion in the consultation', explained another resident, adding that the city's (pro-Indonesia) militia group is led by the district's Administrator, Edmundo da Conceicao.

"He [the Administrator] and the army are the leaders of the militias."

The first day in Lospalos was a complete waste of UNAMET's time. It did not manage to contact any of the city's authorities, and so had to spend another morning there."

In Uato Carabu, about 70 km from Lospalos, Timor is more developed. There is electricity, and the rice paddies spread out in every direction

Here again, the red and white flags can be seen -- a sign that the pro-integrationists' so-called "socialisation activities" have arrived. One local said that there are 10,000 people living in the area, and "the majority know they are going to vote for independence. And when are the UN going to come?", he asked.

Seven hours and about 160 km later

Viqueque comes into view. If a sign had been placed at the gates to the city saying "Welcome to Hell", it would not be amiss.

Viqueque is an ugly, untidy city, with dirty streets full of hundreds of people, surrounded by dilapidated buildings, houses that collapsed from old age, and unfinished huts that spring up all over the place, Indonesian statues in bad taste, and police and army posts in far greater number than in any other place visited by Publico.

A city where you can almost smell the fear. As soon as the sun begins to set, the people shut themselves away inside their homes. By 18.00 hrs. there is not a soul left on the streets. Night has fallen by the time the UNAMET vehicle enters the city, so it is only the following morning that the UN team can start work. The meeting with the Police Chief, originally set for 9 am, is postponed til 11 am. The hotel accommodation is no more than two run-down old "pensoes", with a total of 14 rooms. Premises with even the most basic conditions for the UN headquarters in Viqueque cannot be found anywhere. Viqueque, like Lospalos, is another "problematic" city for the setting up of machinery that, in a period of 2 months, will have to organise everything for the 8 August consultation."

Another old militia group operates in Viqueque: the paramilitary group called the "Team 59/56 Junior", consists of army and civilian men who, according to Church sources, "have been active in the region for over 10 years". In the past two months, they have killed over 100 people, they say, showing us lists of names of the people they say have been killed.

Still in search of a place in which to install its Viqueque headquarters, the UN team goes to have a look at the old primary school that dates from Portuguese times. Although now abandoned and much in need of repair, it could just about meet the requirements. The problem is that the UNAMET team later discovers that, about 2 weeks ago, it was the scene of the killing of 10 young people. The story is still being told around the city, and has just been included among the crimes in Viqueque that the UN is listing. A wakeful night, and an enormous list of atrocities were the only things that the UN got out of this city of 30,000 inhabitants."

It's a moonlit night, and the Bay of Dili fills the horizon. It is ten o'clock when BP finally gets back to the entrance of the Hotel Makhota. His brown checked trousers and blue shirt have lost all sign of the impeccably ironed creases they had when he started out. The blue UN armband is still on his arm. BP is still smiling. Nothing he had seen over the 500 or so kms. had surprised him. He's been familiar with the region for so long, and known about the atrocities for so long, that he is used to living with poverty and with suffering. But now, he says, "I am working for my people and do not have to go around hiding" adding that "There was an Indonesian who called me Mr."

Hardline militia cloaks itself in legality

The Age - June 8, 1999

Mark Dodd, Dili -- Eurico Guterres, one of East Timor's most hardline pro-Jakarta militia leaders, today strongly defended a reorganisation of his force into what he said was a legal civil defence unit.

Mr Guterres, leader of the Aitarak ("Thorn") militia said the reorganisation of his force into a village-based civil defence force known as Pam Swarkasa was legal and would prove to be neutral.

East Timor's regional military commander, Colonel Tono Suratman, said at the weekend he supported the policing role of the Pam Swarkasa.

But critics describe the change in the status of the militias as "legal nonsense". Under the United Nations accord on the 8August ballot on East Timor's future, the militias are to be disbanded.

Mr Guterres defended the move. "Pam Swarkasa by its nature is made up of the population of a village and has to be neutral because it consists of a variety of people from all sides of politics," he told Australian reporters. He said thousands of pro-Indonesian militiamen were now members of Pam Swarkasa.

Human rights groups have condemned the reorganisation of militia gangs like Aitarak, Besi Merah Putih (Red and White Iron) and Team Alpha, saying their core ideology remains pro-integration.

One senior, Dili-based human rights lawyer warned that the transformation of pro-Indonesian militias would undermine the authority of police in East Timor while allowing them access to government funding.

Mr Guterres said he had held talks with the UN and offered to disarm his supporters as long as pro-independence Falintil fighters did the same.

He said he had proposed to the UN a meeting of both sides on common ground.

"We'll continue to fight and won't lay down our arms until Falintil and the pro-independence forces lay down their arms," he said.

"I've talked to David Wimhurst from the United Nations. If he can bring us together, in the (football) stadium or wherever, then I can bring Aitarak and the militias and we will put down our arms as well."

Mr Wimhurst is the spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in East Timor (UNAMET).

The interview was a rare opportunity for Mr Guterres to express his views to the Australian media. Only last week the militia commander he said he was refusing to speak to Australian and Portuguese journalists because they never reported the truth.

Mr Guterres has been linked to threats against Australian journalists and diplomats over their perceived support for the pro-independence cause.

More than 100 people, mostly independence supporters, have been killed in militia-instigated violence since last January.

Mr Guterres is a candidate for the ruling Golkar Party in today's Indonesian elections, seeking to win a seat in the provincial parliament.

Call to raid treasury for integration poll

Sydney Morning Herald - June 7, 1999

Mark Dodd, Dili -- The pro-Jakarta government in East Timor has ordered between 10 and 20 per cent of its budget to be set aside for propaganda and training to promote the integration cause in the ballot on self-determination -- a move that breaches United Nations-brokered accords signed by Indonesia.

A copy of the document, obtained by the Herald and signed by East Timor's Governor, Mr Abilio Soares, last month, orders local government officials to contribute cash for a campaign to ensure success for the integrationists in the UN-organised referendum on August 8.

"To all authorities, it is expected they contribute between 10 and 20 per cent from the development funds allocated for the year 1999/2000 for socialisation [propaganda] of autonomy to be carried out by a team working with all related authorities," the document says. The UN spokesman Mr David Wimhurst said yesterday that the UN office had seen the document and was verifying its authenticity. This correspondent was shown what was claimed to be the original document by a prominent Dili-based human rights official. "We are aware of the document. We will be dealing with it at an official level," Mr Wimhurst said. The orders, if genuine, were illegal and a clear breach of the UN-brokered agreement on East Timor signed on May 5.

The document says: "It should be generally known that in a few months -- exactly August 8,1999 -- there will be a referendum for the people concerning the result of the three-party agreement concerning the special status for broad autonomy for East Timor.

"In connection with this, all our resources and potential we possess should be speedily mobilised for the optimum possibility of success."

On Saturday, the UN chief in East Timor, Mr Ian Martin, complained of breaches to the East Timor accords, which forbid government officials from involvement in their official capacity in the run-up to the referendum.

"There has been premature campaigning, some of which appears to have breached the requirement that East Timorese Government officials may campaign only in their personal capacity without recourse to pressure of office," he said.

"Serious reports of violence and intimidation mainly attributed to militia elements continue to be received by the United Nations."

In related developments, the respected Dili-based Foundation for Legal and Human Rights (Yayasan HAK) has branded as "legal nonsense" the reorganisation of several hard core pro-Indonesian militia groups into civil defence units.

Under the East Timor accords, all militia groups are required to be disbanded before the August referendum.

However, now at least three groups, Aitarak (Thorn), Besi Merah Putih (Red and White Iron), and Team Alpha have reorganised as civil defence units which will work closely with police on law enforcement.
June 7 election

Market euphoria turns sour as count drags

Dow Jones - June 10, 1999

Grainne Mccarthy, Jakarta -- Market euphoria that Indonesia's historic elections passed peacefully has turned to a nervous waiting game as the snail's pace of the vote feeds anxiety about ballot-rigging.

The strong showing of the ruling Golongan Karya party in the returns thus far is also depressing market sentiment, reinforcing the worries about vote-rigging and raising fears that Golkar could hold on to power, something that would likely unleash massive unrest on the streets.

"Everybody's expecting stability to come back to Indonesia if reformist parties like [Megawati Sukarnoputri's] PDI-P come to power," said Pardi Kendy, head of treasury at PT Bank Buana. "Nobody really expects stability will be regained with Golkar."

Market unease about the vote has grown since unofficial tallies late Wednesday showed Golkar surging into second place, passing out the National Awakening Party of Abdurrahman Wahid, but still behind Megawati's Democratic Party of Struggle.

By early afternoon Thursday, just over 10% of the votes cast have been counted, a fraction of what had been promised by that stage. Based on that count, Megawati's PDI-P party is ahead with about 33.7% of the vote, followed by Golkar with around 20.8% of the total.

Despite the fact that it's still very early days, the surprisingly good showing by Golkar has fed worries that the party could continue to gain ground as vote tallies continue to trickle in from Indonesia's outer islands -- with some even worried that Golkar could knock Megawati's PDI-P off the top spot.

"As more counts comes through from rural areas, the numbers coming will boost Golkar's vote," said David Chang, head of research at PT Trimegah Securities in Jakarta. "I think this will be quite negative for investors."

At 0652 GMT Thursday, the Jakarta Composite Index was down 3.3% at 656.50 points. The rupiah was quoted at IDR7,740, slightly higher than its close Wednesday, although market participants said the currency is being helped by rupiah buying by state ban ks.

Because of the mistrust of Golkar -- the power base of former President Suharto during his 32-year rule -- its strong showing in the vote is driving suspicions that the election count is open to question, or even that Golkar is somehow rigging the vote.

"Golkar's showing second, that's making everybody jittery and suspicious that something might be going on," said Johanna Iskandar, analyst at PT ANZ Panin Securities in Jakarta.

"The market is less optimistic than before and most people are just holding positions now," she said.

Hopes that the elections would mark a major turning point for Indonesia's embattled economy lifted stocks 12.2% Tuesday, boosting Jakarta's main index to almost pre-crisis levels.

The euphoria was driven the way the voting proceeded peacefully and hopes that a strong showing by opposition parties could lead to the formation of a strong, stable government with popular support. That feeling has quickly waned.

"I think the worry is that the slow counting is causing nervousness because there could be some fraudulent accounting, some discrepancies in the vote," said Chang at PT Trimegah Securities.

International observers have warned that lingering delays could erase public trust in Indonesia's fledgling democracy, while perceptions that the vote hasn't been free and fair would also likely hamper the influx of foreign investment that many hoped the election would trigger.

Rudini, head of the General Elections Commission, has blamed the delays on slow and meticulous work by workers processing ballots in tens of thousands of villages.

"I can't say when we will have a final result," said the retired army general and former Cabinet minister who, like many Indonesians, uses one name. "There is no political background to the delays. The election commission has opted for accuracy, not s peed."

Indonesians kept waiting for election result

Christian Science Monitor - June 11, 1999

Nicole Gaouette, Jakarta -- The drumbeat of complaint is growing louder as Indonesia continues its plodding count of votes cast in the June 7 parliamentary election. The risk is that it could drown out all other voices. Three days after the polls closed, the Election Commission has tallied only 8 percent of the ballots. As time stretches on, there is increasing worry the delay will undermine the credibility of this historic vote, even if it was largely clean.

There is reason to be wary. There were many small violations in the voting process and potential for vote manipulation, monitors say. Many groups are helping local officials counter these problems.

But as the chorus of suspicion rises, observers warn that cynicism and fear may lead to violent protest, robbing Indonesia of a successful election even if corruption doesn't. "The stakes are too high to get people alarmed unnecessarily, "says Mary Schwartz, Indonesia program director at the International Republican Institute (IRI).

But this is a country that loves conspiracy theories. Opposition parties mutter about possible cheating, and election observers voice "grave concern" -- though admit, when pressed, they know about irregularities at only two out of some 300,000 polling stations.

Media, primed for rioting that never came, have played up the suspicions -- increasing the possibility that voters will protest the delay.

But diplomats and election observers stress there are valid reasons for the tortoise-like progress. Chief among them is inexperience. Indonesia hasn't had a free election in more than 40 years, the field of political parties has exploded from three to 48, and there are huge logistical challenges. Some remote polling stations haven't even received ballots yet.

Impact beyond Indonesia

While Indonesia needs stability to bring investors back to its tattered economy, the impact of a smooth transition to democracy -- or a conflagration -- will be felt beyond its 13,000 islands. The US will be alert for any trouble that could affect American investment here, or the area's strategic shipping lines.

Asia is watching closely, particularly Malaysia, which will soon hold its own election. "This will impact Asian nations looking to see if democratic elections can work here," says Evelyn Serrano, of the Asian Network for Free Elections in Bangkok. "It's crucial."

The IRI is among many organizations helping to plow through an estimated 113 million votes. They have sent staff to areas including Sulawesi, the island President B.J. Habibie calls home, to check on discrepancies.

Mistakes, but no fraud yet seen

"We've not found any evidence of fraud," says Ms. Schwartz. "We have, however, found irregularities and seen miscalculations on part of election officials. We're really urging the [opposition] parties in particular to stay on top of this all the way through."

But Indonesia is using an enormously complicated election structure, making that difficult. Officials originally predicted 50 percent of the votes would be counted by the next day. The Election Commission now says they'll be done sometime next week.

One problem is that votes are counted seven times. At one stage in the count, results are faxed to a media center in Jakarta. At the next stage in the count, officials send votes to the Election Commission.

Differences in these two vote counts are giving rise to most of the suspicion. "The two streams are markedly different," says a Western diplomat. And they show gains for the ruling Golkar Party, long associated with the corrupt rule of former president Suharto.

Ms. Serrano says the bureaucratic structure Mr. Suharto built over 32 years is still in place, and that it would be very easy for the totals to be altered as they are entered into computers. "It's a very dangerous situation," she says. "We suspect some doctoring is going on."

It will be hard to tell for sure, as local and foreign groups have eased their scrutiny since voting day. "We're not sure if people are following through to the next phase," says a Western diplomat. "If closer attention were being paid, people could confirm problems, if they're taking place, [and] dispel rumors too."

Interview with Megawati

Business Week - June 9, 1999

Indonesian opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri, chairman of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle, gave her first post- election interview, four hours after polls closed on June 7, to Business Week Singapore Bureau Chief Michael Shari at her home in South Jakarta. Exhausted after six months of nonstop nationwide campaigning, she discussed her economic policy platform and the two economists in her braintrust, Kwik Kian Gie and Laksamana Sukardi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: Do you see yourself as populist or pro-globalization?

A: Look, the world is changing. So the rich countries also must understand if they just want to keep their own position, it will not satisfy anybody because half of the people in the world are suffering. [These people] need help. They need rich countries to support them.

Q: You have promised to abide by the terms set by the IMF, but your supporters in the streets expect you to nationalize ethnic Chinese-run conglomerates and redistribute their assets among the poor. Why do they think this?

A: Oh, of course, it doesn't mean that all the people think that. You're grabbing pedestrians, but they're very simple people. But what I mean is, the economy of Indonesia can give the people strength to have the dignity to support their own livelihoods. But of course, the IMF is already here. I cannot deny that fact. But I'll suggest to the IMF even though there's an agreement that they also must know that every agreement can be rescheduled. So it means that if the IMF is trying to help Indonesia by their own volition, it means also that they should help the people. So the main point is how to give the people the strength for their own livelihoods.

Q: But do you get the feeling that if you do become President of Indonesia and you do start to implement your own policy, you might run into a conflict between trying to satisfy the poor and the IMF at the same time?

A: I think both of them don't conflict. I am confident about this. The first priority is how to get the people to believe in their government. That is the main problem and the main priority. And then after that, give the IMF a chance to solve the problems of the people of Indonesia. Because if there's [such] a conflict, I guarantee there's no stabilization here.

So that's why we must make a good solution to make the people and the international community, via the investors, via the traders, understand they can also have their business here, but of course to give the Indonesian people economic strength. Because if we just continue as we are now, only just a small group will have a chance to have a big business, while around them the people are suffering and hungry. This will happen.

Q: Who are Kwik Kian Gie and Laksamana Sukardi, and how do they serve you?

A: Like all my board members, they're also my advisers. Of course, they're not my formal advisers [their formal titles are executive vice-president and treasurer, respectively]. You know, if I make a decision I must discuss it directly with my board. Some of them are economists, some of them are lawyers, some of them are intellectuals in [the field of] education. I also have a research and development department ... I can use it [their advice] or not use it ... I knew them before I was elected chairwoman of the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P). They were already members of PDI-P.

Q: But if you disagree with them on economic policy, could you fire them and bring in new advisers?

A: I think that's not my kind of policy because I'm trying to make more people to give their views, to give their vision, and compound them to be a solution to fix the Indonesian economy. Because you know PDI-P is an open party. That means everybody can join the party.

Q: From what I've heard, your party got a very strong vote today. I've heard more than 50% in Jakarta?

A: I think more than that, but O.K. (laughter).

Q: The issue now is, even if you do very well in the election for the House of Representatives, what happens in the presidential election? What's your strategy?

A: This is just the first step. After that, of course, I still have my own strategy for the next step.

Q: And you can't tell me what it is?

A: No (laughter). Do me a favor so I can take this first step.

Q: It just seems that Golkar has so much money.

A: Oh, they have a lo-o-ot.

Q: There are reports that Golkar's strategy in the presidential election is simply to buy parliament members to vote for Habibie.

A: I don't mind. For me, the Functional Group [the official translation of Golkar, which is an Indonesian acronym] is the past. They think it's so easy to buy the people. But I don't think so because it will be very transparent, very clear, if for example some of the PDI-P vote for another [party's] candidate. They would be traitors. Because as a presidential candidate, it's not my own will. The party chose me to be a presidential candidate. It means all the members of PDI-P, including members of parliament, have the duty to make their candidate to the President of Indonesia. So if they choose for example Habibie or another candidate, it means they are traitors. Because that's the duty of members of parliament.

Q: How can you fight this kind of strategy?

A: Please, that's the next step. I doubt if Habibie has very strong support from within Golkar.

Q: Do you think it's possible that some Golkar members might vote for you as President?

A: Yes, why not?

Q: If you don't become the next President of Indonesia, are you prepared to be a strong opposition leader from the back benches of parliament?

A: You know my experience, [from before] I was elected chairperson of PDI-P. They always put me on the wrong side of Indonesian politics. It could happen again, but I don't think so. Because you must understand that the people now need somebody to lead this country. And from the election if the presentation of PDI-P is more than 40%, you can understand it's the people's will to change the system.

Jakarta regime may yet win poll

The Independent (UK) - June 11, 1999

Richard Lloyd Parry, Jakarta -- Eighteen months ago, in the bad old days, the idea that Indonesia could be governed by anyone other than the Golkar Party seemed a far-off dream. Then, in May last year, came the student demonstrations, the Jakarta riots and the resignation of President Suharto. In the space of a year, democratic institutions were put in place, and the country prepared to jettison one-party rule.

But in the days since Monday's jubilant democratic elections, the idea has come full circle. As the counting of votes continues at a snail's pace, a remote but nasty possibility is taking shape: that Golkar might hang on as the leader of a democratically elected government.

The official count, of just 8.4 per cent of the votes, still had the ruling party in third place, after Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle (PDI-P) and its opposition ally, the National Awakening Party (PKB). But an unofficial count of 12.2 per cent of the votes, by the election media centre, put Golkar in second place and gaining, with 21 per cent of the vote compared with the PDI-P's 34.7 per cent.

The final result might not be known for up to six days. In some regions, less than 2 per cent of votes have been counted. But if the present trend continues, Golkar could find itself able to pull together a coalition of smaller parties and relaunch itself as a legitimate party of government.

A number of factors are working in its favour, most important among them the sheer novelty of true democracy in Indonesia. During the 32 years of Suharto's rule, elections were held every five years and pressure to vote for the ruling party permeated society. In big cities and in the central island of Java, the events of the past year have created a highly politicised and sophisticated population. But Indonesia is still overwhelmingly a country of villages, and it is in them that the battle will be won or lost.

An Indonesian civil servant yesterday described a visit to a remote village on the island of Lombok where the villagers all said they intended to vote Golkar. "We asked them why, and they said, 'Because they have done so much for us. Look at our roads. Look at our schools.' To them, Golkar gets the credit for all the development of the last 30 years."

To many Indonesians, choosing the ruling party is a natural part of an election. The political analyst Wimar Witoelar compares it to the Stockholm Syndrome, in which the victims of hijackers identify with and fall in love with their captors. "People can't believe that it's possible for them to break away," he says. "It's like suddenly opening a cage -- the animal doesn't want to walk out because it's been locked up for so long."

The second element that could work in Golkar's favour is the Indonesian military, which is guaranteed 38 out of the 500 parliamentary seats, a crucial 7.6 per cent. Their support for Golkar is not guaranteed, but no group is more conservative than the military, nor more vulnerable to the Stockholm Syndrome.

Yesterday, troops and soldiers were positioned around Jakarta. The official reason was to discourage demonstrators disgruntled with the slowness of the count. The Jakarta police spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Zairuni Lubis, said: "We hope parties could restrain themselves from going to the streets to celebrate victory." Of more concern, though, would be the squeals of outrage if an undead Golkar managed to haul itself out of the political grave.

Polls free except in East Timor, Aceh

Agence France Presse - June 10, 1999

Jakarta -- Indonesia's elections were free and democratic apart from in the troubled territory of East Timor and Aceh province, an Asian poll watchdog said Thursday.

The Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) also expressed concern over the slow pace of vote counting, saying it "must be hastened to avert any suspicion and other unnecessary speculation."

The Bangkok-based watchdog deployed 82 observers in 20 provinces, including East Timor and Aceh, to monitor the first polls in Indonesia since the fall of president Suharto last year.

"ANFREL observers believe that, with the exception of East Timor and the province of Aceh, the Indonesian June 7 elections were conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner," president Saiyud Kerdpol said at a press conference.

"This election represents the first democratic exercise after more than 40 years of autocratic rule," he said, reading from a statement.

ANFREL said violence and human rights abuses, voting postponement, low turnout and irregularities at polling stations in Aceh did not allow them to conclude that the polls were free there.

The military has accused Aceh separatists, who have been fighting for an Islamic state since the 1970s, of terrorizing and threatening voters and election officials.

Separatists in turn have warned of military operations to sweep their suspected strongholds.

"In East Timor, there was apathy toward the elections, since the August 8 referendum was viewed as more important, and voting may have been undertaken as a result of fear and intimidation," ANFREL said.

The August 8 referendum follows Indonesia's announcement in January that it was prepared to relinquish the territory it invaded in 1975 if a majority of East Timorese rejected its offer of wide-ranging autonomy.

Several groups, including EU and US observers, have voiced concern that the slowness of counting created room for dirty tricks.

But Adnan Buyung Nasution of the Election Commission said Thursday the delay was due to the "entirely new system" of counting. "The slowness is the price we have to pay for a secure system. We use a system computerized downwards to the district level and also the people who work are no longer bureaucrats," Nasution said.

"We have to make a choice whether we want quick results but manipulated, or slow but secure."

The Chairman of the Philippine's National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) Jose Concepcion, who was present at the press conference said he saw no mood for cheating.

"Not in a wide scale. As long as the political parties who have really tremendous interests are vigilant at the village level up to the provincial level, there's no doubt," of the counting process, Concepcion said.

KIPP records 19,504 violations

Jakarta Post - June 10, 1999 (abridged)

Jakarta -- The Independent Election Monitoring Committee (KIPP) has discovered 19,504 violations during Monday's balloting across Indonesian provinces outside East Timor and Aceh, according to chairman Mulyana W. Kusumah on Wednesday.

Monitoring approximately 79,000 polling places or 25 percent of the total 320,000 polling places nationwide, KIPP activists found most violations were in the form of the use of "fake" ink, late ballot counting at booths and multiple voting, according to KIPP member Sudaryono.

Sudaryono said a total of 4,105 cases were found where the supposedly indelible ink washed off in minutes or bottles of indelible ink were replaced with ordinary ink.

He revealed 25 percent of the fake ink used during the poll was locally made by PT Surya Halex, a local firm owned by politician M.A.S. Alex Atmasoebrata, with money derived from the state budget.

"The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) only agreed to fund bottles of indelible ink produced in India. The General Elections Commission (KPU) decided otherwise," Sudaryono told The Jakarta Post.

Sudaryono explained that initially three bids were put in for the local production of the indelible ink. "At the last minute, a fourth tender was put in. PT Surya Halex won that tender. The UNDP refused to give the money to produce locally made ink. So, [KPU chairman] Rudini withdrew money from the state budget," Sudaryono alleged, refusing to elaborate on the amount of money withdrawn.

He said on June 1, complaints about the "washable ink" first came from Yogyakarta, Manado, North Sulawesi and Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan.

"On June 2, a KPU meeting was called to discuss the unfortunate progress of events. Alex failed to attend it," he said. Rudini could not be reached for confirmation on Wednesday.

As reported earlier, KPU spokesman Djohermansjah Djohan stated that 75 percent of the ink was provided by the UNDP, which is providing technical support for the elections.

He said 25 percent of the ink needed for 127.6 million eligible voters was produced by local firms including PT Surya Halex, and that due to several complaints from many provincial polling committees, the ink would be replaced before the country went to the polls on June 7.

Sudaryono said the problems concerning washable ink that occurred at thousands of polling booths across 25 provinces was proof that no replacements had taken place.

Data from KIPP also revealed that up to 2,403 cases of late ballot counting were reported by Indonesian residents, election observers and KIPP members. In addition, the organization found up to 1,740 cases where people were caught voting more than once.

According to the UNDP newsletter, a total of 2.7 million poll workers and over 600,000 poll monitors were deployed to organize and watch the June 7 elections. Planes, trains, ships and automobiles were used to dispatch poll material supplies, including 620,000 bottles of indelible electoral ink, 2.8 million poll worker manuals and 413 million ballots.

The UNDP has so far disbursed over Rp 125 billion to non- governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in voter education and monitoring activities. In addition, the UNDP disbursed more than Rp 245 billion for KPU activities including voter registration, the establishment of provincial election committees, a press center, tabulation related equipment and support, poll worker training, ballot printing and electoral ink.

300 students stage sit-in protest in Jakarta

Reuters - June 6, 1999

Around 300 students staged a sit-in protest at central Jakarta's prominent Welcome Monument yesterday, accusing political parties of failing to push harder for democratic reforms.

The monument where the students mounted their banners had been used repeatedly by election campaigners in the past three weeks to erect party flags. he protesters recited chants calling on former President Suharto to face trial.

They also urged the parties contesting tomorrow's historic election to meet demands that were made by the country's student movement, which preceded Mr Suharto's fall in May last year.

"Many parties say they are reformist, but they do not follow the reform demands put out by the students," said 22-year-old Novri Helmanwan. dozen riot police officers sat nearby but did not intervene in the demonstration.

The protesters' demands included an end to the military's role in politics and greater regional autonomy.

Military assured of a solid presence in DPR

Agence France Presse - June 7, 1999

Jakarta -- Indonesia's military do not vote, but unlike most of the 48 parties contesting Indonesia's elections they are already assured of a solid block of seats in parliament. Thirty-eight of the 500 seats in the house go by right to the armed forces, who along with the police force number some 448,000 men, as will 10 percent of all the seats in provincial and district assemblies whose members are also elected Monday.

According to observers barely half a dozen of the 48 parties contesting the first free elections since 1955 will be able to muster 10 percent of the vote, and not a single party is expected to poll more than 35 percent.

In statistical terms, one military MP represents 12,000 of his fellow servicemen while one "civilan" MP represents 310,000 people. In other words one man in uniform "weighs" 25 times more than a man out of uniform.

The military block in parliament -- which is answerable to its leaders -- will be a formidable, disciplined force in the intricate and difficult negotiations needed to elect the next president.

The participation of the armed forces in the political and economic life of Indonesia, based on the "dual function" awarded them for the role they played in winning the country's independence, gives them the opportunity to extend their influence in every field of the country's life.

Outside their official role, many military -- detached, active and retired -- serve in the government, in big state companies as well as in the administration, forming a parallel heirarchy from the highest levels down to the lowliest village.

As recently as 1996, all the provincial governors and half the district chiefs were from the military.

Accepted without question since Suharto, then still a general, took power 32 years ago, the dominance of the military has since his fall been openly challenged.

This about-face was fuelled equally by the brutality of the armed forces in squashing protests, the role played by certain units in the disappearance of political opponents and the public expose of serious human rights abuses committed not only in East Timor and Irian Jaya but in the province of Aceh.

The defenders of "dual function" in Indonesia argue that the army is the most solid institution in the country and the only one capable of defending it, a position strongly contested by the country's new reformist political parties, notably the National Mandate Party of Amien Rais and the National Awakening Party of Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid.

In contrast, Megawati Sukarnoputri, who heads the Indonesian Democracy Party-Struggle (PDIP), a strong favorite in the polls, is uncritical of the privileged role of the armed forces whose nationalist position she echoes.

And she does not seem to hold the armed forces responsible for their role in her eviction from the leadership of the Indonesian Democracy Party and the assault on her party headquarters in July of 1996.

The demonstrations that broke out spontaneously were the worst in 20 years in the center of the capital. They are now generally considered as the beginning of the process which resulted less than two years later with the departure of Suharto.

Jailed party leader unable to vote

Agence France Presse - June 7, 1999

Jakarta -- Jailed Indonesian People's Democracy Party leader Budiman Sudjatmiko was barred from voting Monday, under rules prohibiting convicts serving more than five years from casting ballots, a prison official said. A duty officer at the Cipinang high security prison in Jakarta said Sudjatmiko, 29, and five other jailed party members were inelligible to vote as they had all been sentenced to more than five years.

"It said clearly in the 1999 election rules, Clause 29 that anyone with sentences of more than five years are inelligible to vote," duty officer Iwan Santoso told AFP.

In 1997, under the rule of former president Suharto, Budiman was slapped with a 13 year sentence for allegedly having attempted a government coup in the previous year.

After Suharto's fall in May of last year he was offered a pardon -- but refused insisting it was Suharto who had broken the law, and he would accept nothing less than amnesty. The government however did not prevent the PRD from running in the polls.

Another prison guard said Sudjatmiko and other PRD members were seen hanging around the prison polling station where other short-term prisoners were voting.

There were 1,017 voters eligible voters in Cipinang and Salemba prisons in Jakarta, the Antara state news agency said. All 509 of Cipinang's eligible voters voted, but it was not clear how many in Salemba prison's 508 eligible voters actually took part.

Indonesians flock to the polls

The Guardian (UK) - June 8, 1999

John Gittings in Jakarta and John Aglionby in Ambon -- Indonesians flocked to the polls with enthusiasm yesterday for the country's first free elections in more than 40 years.

More than 90% of those eligible had registered to vote and turnout was high except in the strife-torn areas of Ambon, East Timor and Aceh.

Early returns for the parliamentary elections showed the expected surge in support from urban voters for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) led by Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of the president ousted by Suharto in 1967.

Party officials were claiming 50% support in Jakarta and even more from outlying provinces. But electoral officials warn that reliable results will not be available for up to two days, as the votes of the rural predominantly Muslim population are counted.

Polling in Jakarta was a sociable affair in which communities gathered to vote and then to watch each ballot paper counted before their eyes.

Many began queueing before 8am as officials struggled to master the procedure for a contest between 48 different political parties.

Two years ago, in the election stage managed by the former president Suharto, there were only three parties.

"I'm number 112 on the list to vote," said one employee at the Tanjung Priok dockyard in Jakarta. "I'll probably have to wait till midday for my turn but I don't mind. We can see everything happening in front of us."

At Suharto's home polling station, Golkar -- the government party which he created -- was trounced into ninth position. But observers believe that the party may still win enough votes overall to influence the decision on who becomes president in November.

The mood in the growing number of trouble spots was less cheerful. Voting was postponed in three districts in Aceh while in East Timor turnout was extremely low.

In the town centre of Ambon, where the death toll from unrest has been greatest, people voted against a background of thousands of burnt out buildings. There also, Golkar support plummeted from the 85% share they received in 1997.

But when polling began at a station on Karang Panjang hill only eight people were waiting. Jon Ilela, a retired teacher, said: "People are keen to participate in the elections but they don't want to get caught up in a riot."

Some 13,000 soldiers are currently patrolling the island to prevent more unrest. "Everyone is traumatised by what has happened," said Brigadier-General Max Tamaela, the regional commander.

But as the spectre of violence receded, polling stations became busier. Many were full when they were supposed to have closed and dozens stayed to watch the count.

"We've been under the thumb of the Golkar for three decades," said one pedicab driver. "I want to make sure that they don't manipulate this election as well."

Golkar is blamed for the current chaos in Indonesia, but a future government will need to tackle it fast, according to Mynrik Batlolona of the University of Pattimura in Ambon.

"There are so many issues; Muslim versus Christian, local versus migrant," he said. "If the new government does not sort out the relationship between the capital and the provinces quickly, I reckon the troops will be on the streets for a long time to come."

On Ambon, where religious differences have led to violence, the voting also split on sectarian lines, with Christian areas flocking to Megawati's party while Muslims backed the Suharto-era United Development Party.

"There has not been enough time for the new parties to establish a footing in as remote a place as this," the provincial governor, Saleh Latuconsina, said.

Elsewhere the day passed peacefully and the police presence was generally low-key -- though reserves were deployed out of sight in potentially troublesome areas.

Most polling was done under makeshift tarpaulin shelters, in voting booths knocked together from plywood and draped with a white cloth for privacy.

Teams of witnesses and monitors watched until the polls closed in smaller precincts. At polling stations in Jakarta, every vote for Megawati was cheered while the smaller numbers for Golkar was greeted with mock amazement.

There were claims that Golkar had handed out money and food over the weekend in a last-ditch effort to buy votes. Some voters said that they would "take the money and still vote for Megawati".

The former president, Suharto, was shown on Indonesian television voting in an election which he would never have tolerated while in power. He even pronounced that it should become "the basis for democratic life".

International observers said that in spite of hitches the election had been generally fair. "It is almost like a ceremony. The question is whether the hopes will be fulfilled," one European Union monitor said. "There has been plenty of misfeasance but practically no malfeasance," said another observer.

Anti-Moslem smear against Megawati

Agence France Presse - June 7, 1999

Jakarta -- Supporters of popular Indonesian opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri are up in arms over a weekend smear campaign painting her as anti-Moslem, newspapers said Monday.

The campaign was waged in the form of leaflets, some anonymous and others by Moslem groups. They urged "good Moslems" to spurn her Indonesian Democracy Party-Struggle (PDIP).

They were distributed in Jakarta and other major cities on Saturday and Sunday when campaigning was banned.

The Indonesian Observer quoted a lawyer for Megawati, whose campaign rallies have drawn hundreds of thousands, as saying the party was considering taking legal action.

"The pamphlets have discredited our party so we will report the matter to police headquarters," Didi Supriyanto said.

Some 90 percent of Indonesia's 202 million people are Moslems as is Megawati, the daughter of the country's first president Sukarno. But her grandfather was a Hindu.

Even before the weekend, the campaign to tar Megawati as an unsuitable candidate for the presidency had gathered momentum. The Indonesian Council of Ulemas, the country's highest Moslem body, called on voters to chose only what it called Moslem parties.

The two other largest opposition parties -- the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) -- have both sprung to her defence.

PAN leader, reformist academic Amien Rais, decried the Council's call as an attempt to split the reformist vote and allow the ruling Golkar party of former president Suharto to retain its grip on politics.

PKB leader and Moslem moderate Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, leader of the country's largest Moslem organization the Nadhlatul Ulama, said the Council had no right to meddle in politics.

Indonesia voting is only the first step

Asian Wall Street Journal - June 6, 1999

[The following is an opinion piece from Monday's Asian Wall Street Journal. Van Zorge and O'Rourke are editors of the Van Zorge Report, a biweekly publication on Indonesian politics and economics.]

James Van Zorge and Kevin O'rourke, Hong Kong -- Today for the first time in 44 years Indonesians are choosing their representatives for the national parliament in a free and fair election. However, the integrity of the balloting process is only the first step in the nation's transition to democracy. Several considerations -- electoral imbalances, intra-party cleavages and the potential role of money politics -- mean that today's vote might indicate relatively little about who will ultimately win Indonesia's presidency. That in turn means there is still a danger that the new government may not have the popular mandate it needs to govern.

The voters have plenty of choices on a ballot crowded with 48 parties. Those looking for a party that symbolizes a complete break with the Suharto past will find Megawati Sukarnoputri's PDI Perjuangan an attractive choice. Other pro-reform voters who are less comfortable with Megawati's pronounced secularism might opt for Amien Rais' National Mandate Party. Those preferring an even more overtly Islamic option can choose from among any of the eight parties of the newly-formed "Islamic Alliance." Those who prefer the political status quo -- or who are too far removed from the centers of political activity to know enough about Indonesia's 45 new parties -- could select the ruling Golkar party.

Who will be the big winners and losers in the balloting is anyone's guess. Party heads making detailed estimates based on polling results are in fact engaging in wishful thinking. Free elections are a relatively new phenomenon in Indonesia, as are scientific polling techniques, and those polls that have been conducted suggest that a large number of voters are undecided. Nevertheless, Golkar Chair Akbar Tandjung says he is confident that Golkar will win close to 40% of the national vote.

The arithmetic suggests that the PDI Perjuangan and its ally, Gus Dur's National Awakening Party, need to win a combined 50% of today's vote to have a good chance of placing Megawati in the presidency. To be virtually assured of her presidency, they will need over 60%. Meanwhile, a Golkar-Islamic alliance would only need approximately 40% to have a good chance of winning the presidency, and perhaps 50% to 55% to sew up the presidential race.

Why the different calculations? They are mostly based on Golkar's strength among over-represented Outer Island voters. Although PDI Perjuangan is the hands-down favorite on Java, home to 58% of the country's people, half of the Parliament's seats are from the Outer Islands, where both Golkar and the Islamic parties are likely to fare best. Golkar stands to benefit from its superior infrastructure in remote regions, as well as a relatively stronger economy off Java. The rupiah's drastic devaluation has been a boon to many export-driven Outer Island provinces. Islamic parties also enjoy stronger support outside Java, where a more orthodox religious belief prevails.

In addition, Golkar benefits from the presidential selection process. The winners of today's elections will not only fill the 462 parliamentary seats, they will also take their places in the People's Consultative Assembly, which meets in October to select the president. The balance of the Assembly's 700 seats will be made up of appointed representatives from the military (38), "functional groups" (65) and regional parliaments (135). Inclusion of the latter creates a distinct regional imbalance in the Assembly: Java will account for only 36% of the Assembly's seats, while 49% come from the Outer Islands and 15% from the regionally neutral military and functional groups.

Arithmetic aside, even if either of the two broad coalitions do reach the threshold point for a probable victory, one must exercise some caution before making any firm conclusions. Politics is not necessarily a linear exercise. In this case, one should pay careful attention to two factors that could easily upset the coalition exercise and cause chaotic conditions: intra-party factions and money politics.

Given the recent facelift in Indonesian politics, it is not surprising that many of the larger parties are torn over whom to support for president. A bitter rift within Golkar appeared earlier this year when the party named five presidential candidates; only recently did the party's leadership knit together an uneasy consensus behind the sole candidacy of B.J. Habibie.

Dispute over an appropriate presidential candidate is also clearly visible with the National Awakening Party. Gus Dur (also known as Abdurrahman Wahid) is a close friend of Ms. Megawati, and he personally supports her as a presidential aspirant. However, influential party members (namely senior clerics of the traditionalist Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama) are far less enthusiastic about supporting a woman for president -- particularly one who is so overtly secularist.

The same type of dissent can be found in the National Mandate Party, whose main constituency derives from the modernist Islamic organization Muhammadiyah, which Amien Rais once headed. Mr. Rais has struggled to broaden his party's appeal to a more moderate, less Islamic-leaning electorate. However, the culmination of this effort, a vague "joint communique" with the secular-nationalists, triggered a near-revolt by Muhammadiyah Islamists. In the final days preceding the election Mr. Rais has clearly swung toward the Islamic camp.

Such cleavages inside the major parties strongly suggest that once party delegates sit inside the Assembly to vote on a new president, many could defect and vote for another party's candidate. Making the picture even murkier is the distinct possibility that money politics will play a prominent role in the Assembly. In a country notorious for corruption, financial incentives could create substantial numbers of defections -- particularly among the pivotal regional representatives. This would, presumably, play into the hand of the well-heeled incumbents, Golkar.

At this point we can only draw a few preliminary conclusions on how the election results will have an impact on Indonesia's prospects for political stability and hence a successful democratic transition. A resounding victory by the PDI Perjuangan in the general elections and the emergence of Megawati Sukarnoputri as the winner in the upcoming presidential elections would signal the best prospects for social stability. This is because Ms. Megawati, unlike any other leading political figure in the country, symbolizes a complete break from the Suharto past. Her victory would be synonymous with the establishment of a legitimate government in the eyes of the Indonesian public.

But barring this result, a distinct possibility is a deadlocked Assembly, leading to the victory of a compromise presidential candidate. This scenario is likely if the results of the general elections show a tight spread in the number of votes won by the nationalist-secular and Islamic alliances. At present, such dark horses include Yogyakarta's Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, armed forces chief General Wiranto, and Nurcholish Madjid. However, each has significant drawbacks as a presidential candidate. The strongest of the compromise candidates, General Wiranto is a smart politician and has keen leadership skills, but similar to other figures associated with the Suharto era, he would face a big challenge in establishing his legitimacy.

Amid the uncertainty, one point remains clear: If Golkar records a surprisingly strong showing in the general elections -- more than 25% -- or if it ultimately manages to win in the Assembly with B.J. Habibie as its presidential candidate, allegations of fraud would undoubtedly follow. In this scenario, a large and vociferous segment of the population would deem the government illegitimate, crippling the country. Such strife would be most intense on the main island of Java, which by all indications constitutes the most vehement anti-Golkar segment of the population. Ironically, in that case President B.J. Habibie's efforts to lead Indonesia into a new, democratic future would prove to be an abject failure.

Which parties really fight for women?

Jakarta Post - June 7, 1999

Ida Indawati Khouw, Jakarta -- Every day electronic and print media have been running commercials urging women to choose parties "which pay attention to women".

The commercials have become so incessant that political campaigners were "forced" to pledge that women's issues would be given greater attention if their party won the elections. However, these campaigners usually failed to elaborate on how they would do this.

The leaders of political parties should not have let pass the opportunity to attract women voters, who, according to surveys, make up 57 percent of all voters.

However, most of the 48 political parties contesting the polls have interpreted giving greater attention to women to mean merely naming women as legislative candidates.

According to Tati Krisnawaty, executive director of Women's Solidarity, a non-governmental organization, promoting women's interests goes beyond female representation in legislative bodies and the question of whether the president can be a woman.

"We feel very disappointed that in general there are no political parties which have adequate awareness of women's issues," Tati, one of dozens of activists in the Coalition of Indonesian Women for Democracy and Justice, the organization behind all those television and print ads, said.

The ads are an attempt to heighten the awareness of political parties of the need to address women's issues, a particularly difficult task given that most people are simply concerned about whether the elections will be free and fair.

One such ad from the coalition portrays a woman and the text: "There should no longer be physical abuse by your husband ... no more harrasment from your employer ..."

Tati said protection against spousal abuse was one of many issues considered by most to be a private, domestic matter, but which political parties should address.

The problems will not go away even if democracy is achieved, she said, disputing the claim made by a number of party leaders and campaigners -- including Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Tati said political parties could be said to have an adequate understanding of women's issues if they took up matters considered to be private and dealt with them through public policy.

Tati pointed to information gathered from political parties about their programs for women. Women's Solidarity hosted a series of shows from March 26 to June 30 involving representatives of political parties in 10 large cities across the country. During the shows, the representatives were asked questions regarding their programs for women.

Parties participating in the shows were Golkar Party, the United Development Party (PPP), the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, the National Mandate Party (PAN), the National Awakening Party (PKB), the Crescent Star Party (PBB), the Indonesian Democratic Union Party (PUDI), the Democratic People's Party (PRD), the Justice Party (PK), the Indonesian National Party led by Supeni (PNI-Supeni), the Justice and Unity Party (PKP), the Love the Nation Democratic Party, the National Labor Party (PBN) and the Islamic Community Party (PUI).

One of the shows' organizers, Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, said only three of the participating parties had promising programs for the promotion of women's issues. These were the National Awakening Party, the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the People's Democratic Party (PRD).

The three parties platforms were clearly antidiscrimination and reflected high gender awareness, she said. However, Yuniyanti said that even the representatives of these three parties failed to elaborate on their proposed programs.

Yuniyanti said most of the party platforms only contained normative statements related to women. For example, that the party would struggle to improve their condition.

"They always think that by saying they have named women legislative candidates the problem is over. That's wrong," Yuniyanti said.

"The problem is that for women, democratization does not only concern issues 'outside the house,'" Tati said, adding that history has proven that women are always left behind after people consider democratization has been achieved.

She cited, as an example, founding president Sukarno's pledge, made during the struggle for independence, to accommodate women's demands on education rights for women and eradicate polygamy once independence was gained.

"But women were left behind after independence was achieved. Sukarno never fulfilled his promises. He instead practiced polygamy," she said.

If none of today's political parties fight for women's rights, why is the coalition continuing to run the ads? It has at least awakened political parties to the need to take women into consideration," Tati said.

[Yuniyanti's statement in this report that of the parties with clear platforms on women, "all three failed to elaborate on their proposed programs", is in fact not true of the PRD, which has comprehensive and detailed policies on women (see "The Struggle for Democracy in Indonesia", ASIET, November 1996) - James Balowski.]

Habibie comes under fire for DPR `reward'

Jakarta Post - June 7, 1999

Jakarta -- A prominent member of the House of Representatives from the United Development Party (PPP) on Sunday expressed his opposition to President B.J. Habibie's plan to give a "token of gratitude", worth Rp 150 million (US$18,750), to each of the 500 House members.

Faisal Baasir, who is the deputy chairman of PPP, told The Jakarta Post that the President's plan, revealed on Saturday evening by National Mandate Party (PAN) chairman Amien Rais, would disgrace the House members.

"If the government intends to give the money as a reward for our achievements, it will only humiliate the legislators," Baasir said.

According to him, the House members were chosen by people and were carrying out the people's mandate, therefore only the people deserved the reward.

"The value of the token gift from the government is nothing, considering our service to the public," he said.

Baasir suggested Habibie give them certificates as a reward for their work. He proposed that the fund allocated for the "token of gratitude", which totaled Rp 75 billion, could be distributed to the 48 competing political parties. The parties, he said, have spent a lot of money on recent campaigning activities.

As reported earlier, Amien told the press in his party's "post campaign" party on Saturday that he had a copy of a decree signed by Habibie expressing his gratitude for the hard work of the 500 legislators.

As a "token of gratitude", Amien said quoting the letter, Habibie would present Rp 150 million to each of the House members.

As of Sunday evening, none of Habibie's officials could be reached to comment on the plan, which is said by Amien to be stipulated in presidential decree 47/1999, dated May 20.

On the other hand, many of the current legislators, who will end their term on Aug. 24 this year, having served in the House since 1997, claimed to have no idea about Habibie's generous plan.

Some said that they had never heard of the matter, which according to a report would be handled by the Ministry of Finance.

"We could not make a comment yet, since we don't know the essence of the decree," veteran legislator Abu Hasan Sadzili from Golkar told the Post.

According to the previous schedule, the legislators, who were repeatedly asked by anti-Soeharto protesters to step down following the resignation of the former president, would end their tenure in the year 2002.

But following the fall of Soeharto, Habibie's administration decided under public pressure to bring forward the general election.

The new legislators will be elected based on the results of Monday's polls. According to the existing House regulation No. 12, issued in 1980, the current legislators would receive a retirement pension. "For example, a legislator working for a period of five years would receive a pension of Rp 1.5 million per month," legislator Baasir said.

Therefore, he said, Habibie's "token of gratitude" would be too much for the House members.

Baasir speculated that the money, if there is no strong objection from the public, would be transferred to the bank accounts of the legislators a few days before their last day in the House.

Amien told the press on Saturday that one of Habibie's considerations in issuing the decree was the good performance of the House members during their tenure of only two years, instead of the normal five-year period.

"They have produced various bills in line with the MPR (People's Consultative Assembly) decrees and the agreements between the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)," Amien quoted a copy of Habibie's presidential decree as saying.

Amien said that he strongly opposed the plan. "The fate of the workers of the food and candy manufacturers PT Mayora remains uncertain, and this is so for many people," he said, referring to hundreds of Mayora workers who staged a noisy protest here last week, demanding the company reemploy them after they were dismissed late April. PAN secretary-general Faisal Basri echoed his party chairman's statement, saying that Habibie's government had no sense of crisis. "Our people are facing economic hardship but still the government seems not to care about it," he told the Post.

Golkar's last hurrah

Joyo News Report #2 - June 4, 1999

[The following is a report posted by Joyo Indonesia News by a noted political analyst, who prefers to remain anonymous.]

It was the last day of campaigning and Golkar got the last word. Only trouble is, virtually no one was listening. We started out at the Hotel Indonesia Roundabout. The day before it had been choked with people. From atop the Mandarin, the scene below looked like millions of red blood cells surging through the city's main artery -- except in very slow motion. Today it was all gone. In the afterglow this morning emerged a tiny knot of Golkar supporters who by mid morning had established a beach head on the pool's edge, right in front of the big video screen. It was a surly looking pack of Pemuda Pancasila. The traffic moved easily. No one really bothered to look. The previous evening's news reported how Golkar had gone to police headquarters insisting on stepped up protection for their day of campaigning.

We wanted to catch one of Akbar Tanjung's last campaign appearances, but since the rallies would not get underway until after Friday prayers, we figured we'd swing around town a bit looking for signs of Golkar life.

There was the occasional banner, the occasional flag. But virtually no convoys. Eventually we headed toward North Jakarta, to the Lapangan Sunter Agung where the first major rally of the afternoon was to be staged. It was hard to find. The taxi driver had to stop and keep asking people where it was. There was no thickening of traffic near the site, no flags or banners. You couldn't tell you were nearing it, even from a few hundred meters away.

To pass the time the taxi driver kept cracking anti-Golkar jokes. He asked us if either of us would be willing to run down the middle of the street waving a Golkar flag for Rp. 10,000. When we declined he upped it to Rp. 100,000 and laughed. "Who wants to get pelted with trash for Rp. 100,000?" he asks.

We arrived a little after 1 pm. Almost no one had arrived, and Akbar Tanjung would be there in an hour. I thought there was a serious chance the rally would be cancelled. There were a couple dozen kids (really small kids) hanging around with Golkar flags draped over their shoulders like Superman. >From the stage a Golkar woman was tossing candy from a box to the kids to get them whipped up. It worked for about five minutes. Then people went back to milling around.

I approached one woman standing off to the side and asked her if she was a Golkar supporter. "I used to be with a Pakistani family, but now I'm with a Golkar family," she said. An odd answer until you realize she was a maid and she was there, with a group of about 30 domestics who appear to have been brought along by the wealthy cadres on the stage. Padding the audience with one's servants is quite an innovation.

Up on the stage sat a couple pretty dangdut singers waiting for their turn to get people dancing. Right in front sat a classic Golkar lady. Her fingers dripped god jewelry, her tinted hair was pouffed up, and she was wearing these huge Jackie-O sunglasses, which might have made her look sleek and sophisticated were there not these gaudy gold medallions on the sides of the sunglass rims the size of bottle caps. She just sat there and seemed to brood from behind her shades.

Even fifteen minutes before Akbar Tanjung's entourage arrived, the scene on the stage was still remarkably morose. The crowd, now numbering several hundred, was pathetic. There was no energy.

"It's a small number, huh?" a younger Golkar woman on the stage said with an uneasy laugh.

The reception the opposition parties (especially Megawati's) have been getting has emboldened them, given them confidence, and generated a new sense of empowerment. The hostile and weak reception for Golkar appears to have broken the spirit of many die-hard followers. The Golkar people did not strut. They looked weakened and apologetic. It seemed as if there was a whiff of foreboding was in the air at this Sunter rally.

There was a brief moment of excitement when one of the Golkar people on the stage tried yelling slogans and cheers for the crowd.

"Golkar PKI!!!!" he screamed [Golkar Communist Party!]. Or at least that's what it sounded like through the garbling sound system.

In fact, he had said "Golkar DKI." I thought I was the only one who thought he screamed the initials of the banned Communist Party, but the surprised look on faces in the crowd suggested I was not alone.

As Akbar Tanjung's cars and buses pulled up near the back of the field, I looked out at the messages on the Golkar banners.

"Golkar Menang Wong Cilik Senang" [Golkar wins and the little people are happy] "Golkar W.O.W. Keren" [Golkar WOW Cool] "Gunakan Suara Anda Dengan Baik Milih Golkar" [Use your vote wisely by choosing Golkar]

The music reached a fevered pitch as Akbar Tanjung's group made its way through the crowd toward the podium. The stage was overflowing with reporters and the floorboards felt wobbly (several stages had collapsed for campaigners, including Tanjung).

Tanjung sat down and a tight gaggle of reporters formed an arc in front of him blocking the crowd's view of the main speaker for several long minutes. The music kept playing as a reporter thrust a handphone into Tanjung's face for a live radio interview right there on the stage in mid rally. Tanjung could not possibly hear a question being put to him either on the phone nor from the reporter holding the phone to the party leader's head. But Tanjung held forth to the radio audience anyway, ignoring the sea of about 2,000 supporters right in front of him behind the pack of reporters.

There was no string of warm up speeches. Tanjung simply got introduced and then he made his way to the microphones. He launched an almost robotic speech whose rhythm was kept by Tanjung's right hand waving overhead like a metronome during the entire 15 minute address. He bellowed into the microphone held in his left hand.

The youths gathered immediately below the stage kept jostling and jumping around through the entire speech.

These are highlights from Akbar Tanjung's extemporaneous speech:

"We are a religious party. We struggle for the whole country, the whole people. We are open to all races, groups, we take them all under our tent. We work for the prosperity of the people, for their enlightenment. We are dedicated to the people, from the lowest people all the way to the top. We struggle for the young and the old. For women, students, teachers."

"Golkar is dedicated to building Indonesia's human capital. Only with this can we prosper, move forward, and compete with other nations. We are reformers. This is the New Golkar. We don't want the status quo. Do you want the status quo? [The crowd yells back "No!"].

Islam figured prominently in the speech. In one segment that built on the party's official number on the ballot, 33, Tanjung said: "Say your prayers 33 times, say Allah is great 33 times, and read the sacred texts (wirid)in groups together 33 times. Golkar is blessed by the Almighty Allah."

Then Tanjung turned the microphone over to his beloved wife (his second of three wives, someone told me, though I do not know this for a fact). She gave a speech as well and then, in an Imelda moment, sang to the crowd. Akbar himself had struck a defensive note for Golkar, but his wife took it much further.

"Although we are criticized, insulted, and people say every conceivable terrible thing about us, it makes us strong. We grow stronger. Are we strong? [The crowd yells "Yes!"]. We are open to criticism, open to change."

Some local reporter sitting next to me leaned forward at that moment and said, "They were forced to be open to criticism and change. It's a bit much for them to take credit for this New Golkar."

Just after Tanjung left a heavy rain started and all the afternoon's rally appearances would have to be cancelled. While Tanjung was speaking to the people in North Jakarta, Golkar supporters were once again under attack elsewhere in the city -- in the Senen area, where soldiers fired shots in the air to disperse an anti-Golkar crowd that kept up the siege for 5 hours, and on Sudirman where Golkar supporters were also harassed.

Golkar has a lot of money but is fragmented badly. They have everything to lose in the election, and yet they and their past remain their own worst enemy. Golkar is discredited and it is readily apparent the Indonesian people seriously desire to move on. The potential for election fraud makes predicting official elections results exceedingly difficult. But assuming the count really reflects the vote, I believe Golkar will get a very small percentage of the whole vote -- perhaps as much as ten percent (though maybe 15 percent if there is significant cheating).

Analysts are correct to argue that Golkar has more influence in the outer provinces. But it is very difficult to transform that support into an electoral success, and certainly not one that would be workable (meaning it could govern).
Aceh/West Papua

Dead troops found in Aceh

Indonesian Observer - June 10, 1999

Jakarta -- Three bodies, including those of two soldiers, were found in the restive province of Aceh yesterday after gunmen attacked an Air Force radar tower in another area, government officials said.

The bodies were found in side streets in Teupin Batee village in the morning, the head of East Aceh district, Alauddin Ae, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"We don't know who killed them," he told reporters, adding that two had been identified as soldiers from a local battalion.

The bodies carried stab injuries and bruises on the neck which suggested strangulation. Late on Tuesday, a group of unidentified gunmen fired on an Air Force radar tower, a military air force official said.

"The group of about four to eight fired on the tower around 9:20pm. The shootings lasted about 10 minutes but there were no reports of casualties," Major Ahmad Toha told Reuters.

The incident broke out in North Aceh's Belang Mangat district. The area is just outside the industrial city of Lhokseumawe, a hotbed of resistance to the government and homicidal troops.

In Jakarta, dozens of students staged a demonstration to demand a referendum be held for Aceh. The protesters, members of the Student Solidarity for Aceh (Somaka), took to the streets outside Central Jakarta's Hotel Arya Duta.

The students held their 20-minute protest at the hotel where the General Election Commission (KPU) was busy monitoring the election results coming in at the media center it has set up there.

"We do not ask for a meeting with any KPU member. We only want to make the world realize what is happening in Aceh," Somaka leader Fajran Zain said. A referendum is the only way to settle the human rights abuses against Acehnese, he added.

Somaka also urged the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the United Nations (UN) to monitor and settle atrocities in Aceh by opening a branch in the country's westernmost province.

In its petition, Somaka said the Acehnese reject the presence of anti-riot troops whom they blame for the human rights violations they had to put up with during a decade-long military operation to quash rebel movements in the province.

Responding to the protest, Komnas HAM member Miriam Budiardjo said it would be better to settle the Aceh case after there is a new parliament. "Komnas HAM will set up an independent team to conduct investigations there," she said.

The team's members will consist of Acehnese who know the situation in the province better than anyone else, she said.

Deaths deal Aceh's election another blow

The Australian - June 10, 1999

Lhokseumawe -- Hopes that delayed elections could be held in several districts of the troubled province of Aceh faded yesterday with the killing of at least three more security personnel.

The bodies of three men, two of them soldiers, were found in Idi Rayeuk subdistrict in East Aceh yesterday, police said. A policeman was shot dead late on Monday in Woyla subdistrict, West Aceh, after escorting ballot boxes.

"We don't know what to do anymore. We held elections in eight subdistricts yesterday but only two polling stations could open and only 323 voters showed up," said a North Aceh election officer, Wahid Hasan.

Polling stations opened in another six subdistricts yesterday, "but we have received reports from Kutamakmur and Baktia that no voters have shown up", said Mr Hasan.

North Aceh, along with Pidie and East Aceh, are the three districts most affected by violence between Indonesian troops and separatist rebels.

The military has accused separatist rebels, who have been fighting for an Islamic State since the 1970s, of terrorising and threatening voters and election officials.

When polling stations remained empty or failed to open on Monday, the election commission allowed them up to 30 days to hold elections.

Disease spreads among refugees

Waspada - June 10, 1999

Sigli -- The state of health among refugees in the sub-districts of Bandar Dua and Ulim, Pidie is beginning to cause anxiety. Disease is striking the children in particular.

On Wednesday, 9 June, at least 150 children below 12 years of age were suffering from flu, one hundred from the sub-distrct of Bandar Dua and fifty from the sub-district of Ulim. One baby is reported to have died in the village of Lhok Pusong Ullegle, sub-district Bandar Dua on Tuesday. The baby who died had not yet been given a name by its parents.

Disease has begun to strike because of the conditions in which the people are living and the lack of bedding to sleep on. They are sleeping on the bare ground in mosques, schools in drafty places, with inadequate food and drink, according to a local health post.

In an attempt to cope with the worsening conditions, the local government has brought in a team of doctors and medical staff who are on duty 24 hours. The team is headed by Dr Mar'i Aziz, head of the Pidie Health Department, and five health centres have been opened. Up to yesterday, doctors had dealt with one thousand patients.

The people have fled from 42 villages -- from 32 villages in Bandar Dua, eight villages in Ulim and two villages in Meureudu. They have been fleeing their villages since 6 June because of the fear that war would erupt, after seeing troops enter their villages. Up to yesterday, the number of refugees had reached 20,000 to 30,000 and they are being accommodated in mosques, schools and other public buildings.

Coordinator M. Idris Jalil said that to cope with the problem, health centres have been set up in a number of places to treat patients 24 hours a day.
Labour issues

Security forces arrest workers at protest

Associated Press - June 9, 1999

Jakarta -- Indonesian police and troops arrested at least 100 workers and student activists after a four-day sit-in at the headquarters of the workers' former employer, a snack food producer.

Sonny Warsito, a lawyer for the workers, said his clients want wage increases and rejected their dismissal from the Mayora Indah Lt. Corp.

Labor Minister Fahmi Idris has said that the company should reinstate 1,361 workers and pay back wages. They were fired more than two months ago.

Warsito said police arrested the workers because they protested without permission. Some of those arrested wept and wailed as they were carried to military trucks.

In other protests, a small group of supporters of the ruling Golkar Party protested outside the General Election Commission against the slow vote count from Monday's democratic election. Opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri was leading in early returns.

Several dozen students rallied outside a hotel where the vote is being tallied to demand independence for Aceh province, where Islamic separatist guerrillas operate.
Human rights/law

Ambon refugees living in horrid conditions

Agence France Presse - June 5, 1999

Jakarta -- Refugees from the Christian-Moslem clashes in the Indonesian island of Ambon are living in poor conditions lacking proper food and medical care, and prey to illnesses which have claimed 25 lives, reports said Saturday.

More than 50,800 refugees are being sheltered on Buton island, off southeast Sulawesi, after fleeing the violence which left 350 people dead and 6,000 homes torched.

The Jakarta Post reported Saturday that the refugees were huddled into makeshift centres where conditions have been "worsened by the poor quality of refugee centres as many of them did not meet health standards."

Many of them had fallen ill with diarrhea and cholera. Some 16 people had died from diarrhea since early this year, the Post said, adding the state Antara news agency had spoken of 25 deaths so far from various illnesses.

A Buton official, Syamsuddin Kasim, told the Post the island was struggling to provide for the refugees because it had not received much assistance.

"The local administration's capability is limited. Imagine we have to feed thousands of people every day," he told the Post.

An officer at a command post in Lakulo district said a cholera outbreak hit 20 refugees including young children and babies last month, but was quelled with help from the army and medical school of the University of Indonesia.

Syamsuddin said Buton was trying to transfer the refugees to other regions. Some 500 would be sent to Kolaka on southeast Sulawesi as a first step.

"The move is intended to help avoid conflicts between the refugees and local residents of Buton," he said, adding otherewise the refugees could pose a heavy social burden on the island.

Last month Maluku Governor Saleh Latuconsina said 350 people had died in the violence which rocked the island province of Maluku, known as the Spice Islands.

He said many others had been injured in the violence, but the exact figure was unknown.

Moslem-Christian violence broke out in Ambon, the main city of Maluku, in mid-January and later spread to several corners of the island province.

Street children face exploitation in Surabaya

Jakarta Post - June 6, 1999

Gin Kurniawan, Surabaya -- As night arrives, Kembang Kuning graveyard comes alive. This is the place where many men satisfy their sexual drives. In fact, at night, the graveyard becomes a meat market.

Hundreds of sex workers, including transvestites and some children, work in this 4-hectare Chinese graveyard, charging customers between Rp 3,000 and Rp 10,000. Dozens of child beggars, street singers and cigarette vendors also scramble to make a living in the graveyard.

On this particular night, several boys were seen sitting in a dark corner near a tomb. From a distance, a light was seen for some seconds, then it went dark again. This was repeated several times. Once in a while the boys laughed. They were playing the so-called "Matches Sex" game.

The boys surrounded a girl, call her Yeyen, 11, who sat on the tomb. She was the object in this game. As one of the boys lit a match, she had to pull up her skirt to allow the boys to look at her.

Yeyen receives Rp 500 every time the match is lit. That is the current price, which has increased from Rp 100 before the crisis. But Yeyen does not get to keep all of the money because she has to give about half of her earnings to a hoodlum.

What happens to Yeyen is one of many examples of the exploitation of street children in Surabaya. They are abused by adults who make money from them. Many of the children are forced to enter prostitution.

Yeyen, who also has been forced into prostitution, is known as the Queen of the Matches Sex game in Kembang Kuning graveyard. The term Matches Sex is not only popular in the graveyard, but also in other places in Surabaya, including the red-light districts near the Bungurasih and Joyoboyo bus terminals and the Wonokromo and Gubeng train stations. Similar exploitation reportedly also takes place in Yogyakarta and it is possible that it happens in other big cities as well.

Exploitation of street children in Surabaya has reached an alarming level and it is likely that there are syndicates behind the abuse. These syndicates reportedly not only involve hoodlums, but also employees of the city security and order office.

"They make street children milch cows and treat them like slaves," Bagong Suyanto, chairman of the Institution for the Protection of Children in East Java, said.

According to Bagong, street children seem to "live in a jungle" where those who are strong overpower the weak. Street children are the weak, therefore they become the targets of those who are physically strong or those who have power. And those who have power are hoodlums and employees of the security and order office.

The street children have to give money to the hoodlums who run the streets where they struggle to make money. "If we want to be safe, we have to give them money every day," Amir, 17, a vendor at Joyoboyo bus terminal, said.

There are also some employees of the security and order office who launch raids against street children. It seems, however, that the raids are only a cover to extort money from the children. "As long as we give them money, we are free to sell our goods," Amir said.

Nanang, a street singer who works in Bungurasih terminal, said that once he was assaulted because he refused to give money to a hoodlum. "We have to obey them, otherwise things would become really bad," Nanang said.

Bagong, who is also a social researcher at Airlangga University, said street children are an easy target for extortion because the children themselves make quite good money. Joint research conducted by Atma Jaya University in Jakarta and the East Java Institute for the Protection of Children showed that the children earn an average of between Rp 15,000 and Rp 30,000 a day.

There are about 5,000 street children in Surabaya, an increase from about 2,000 children before the economic crisis. Most of them work as street singers, hawkers and beggars.

"Just imagine how much the hoodlums make if the children have to give them half of their earnings," Bagong said.
News & issues

Press lash out Ghalib for barring press

Agence France Presse - June 9, 1999

Jakarta -- Indonesian press and human rights groups Wednesday lashed out at Attorney General Andi Ghalib for banning three journalists from reporting on his activities.

Ghalib, a military general, is already under fire over his handling of the investigation into the alleged fortune accumulated by former president Suharto, estimated by Time magazine at 15 billion dollars. Ghalib has also been accused of taking bribes.

"We strongly condemn the blacklisting of three journalists ... by the personnel of the attorney general's office," five journalist associations said in a joint statement.

The three banned reporters, from the leading Kompas daily, the RCTI private television station and the Suara Bangsa daily, were Tuesday served verbal notice that they were barred from covering activities at the attorney general's office.

The reason given was that the three "have acted rudely by pointing their fingers at the attorney general, and their questions appeared like an interrogation during a press conference".

The protest statement was signed by the chairmen of five groups -- the Alliance of Independent Journalists, the Indonesian Journalists' Association-Reform, the Indonesian Association of Television Journalists, Indonesian Photographers and the Association of Radio Journalist of Indonesia.

The Indonesian Association for Legal Aid and Human Rights (PBHI), an umbrella organisation, also "strongly condemned" the ban.

Ghalib, the association said, "has never balked at improper actions that go against the wish of the people for the respect of the principle of the supremacy of law and the public accountability of officials".

PBHI demanded that Ghalib immediately revoke "his wrong decision" and urged Indonesian President B.J. Habibie to assess the "impropriety of officials he had appointed".

The groups urged Ghalib to provide "an explanation accompanied by logical reasons" on the decision and warned that if the demand was not heeded by noon Thursday, they will call on all journalists to protest en masse at his office.

The groups also called on all media to continue to closely follow the performance of Ghalib's office.

Earlier Wednesday, speaking before attending a meeting at the Bina Graha presidential office, Ghalib said: "On the journalists case, there may have been a misunderstanding with the public relations department" of his office.

But he also said that if a journalist "points his finger, screams ... they are not journalists." He also said journalists should be properly dressed, and not wear T-shirts, jeans or sandals.

Ghalib, who heads the official probe into Suharto, has himself been accused of having taken bribes from businessmen by the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), a private group.

The group has said it has evidence Ghalib received money transfers from two prominent businessmen currently under investigation over possible bank law violations. It also said that Ghalib and his wife had billions of rupiah (more than one million dollars) in several bank accounts.

[On June 10 the Jakarta Post quoted Ghalib as saying "It was merely a misunderstanding with [my office's] public relations division" claiming that he did not ban any journalists from covering a story at his office but asked them to behave and dress properly. "If necessary, I'll buy ties for them" he said. On the same day Agence France Presse said that Ghalib answered a police summons for questioning over the ICW report - James Balowski.]

Graft evidence against Suharto survived

Agence France Presse - June 8, 1999

Jakarta -- An Indonesian corruption watchdog said Tuesday a break-in had failed to destroy evidence backing claims that the chief investigator probing allegations over Suharto's fortune was himself corrupt.

The independent Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) told a press conference that it still had the documents allegedly detailing that Attorney General Andi Ghalib had received bribes totalling some 1.6 million dollars. It also called for Ghalib's immediate dismissal.

ICW coordinator Teten Masduki charged that the money was taken in bribes from Suharto cronies, and said despite the break-in the ICW still had in its possession concrete evidence of Ghalib's bank statements.

The statements could be produced in court if necessary, he said. "That wealth is highly abnormal when taking into account the official salary he has earned since being sworn in on June 17, 1998," Masduki said.

Ghalib's official monthly salary is understood to be about 7.5 million rupiah or just over 1,000 dollars.

"President Habibie must immediately and dishonorably discharge Attorney General Lieutenant General Andi Muhammad Ghalib from his post to restore the dignity of the institution as an upholder of the law," Masduki said.

ICW found that Ghalib has five accounts and 12 deposits under his and his wife's names in an unidentifed bank totalling 9.2 billion rupiah as of June 1, 1999. He did not detail where the rest of the money was held.

"We suspect him not only of bribery but also corruption," Bambang Widjojanto, another ICW member said.

The ICW Thursday called on the military police and the national police to investigate Ghalib on suspicion of criminal acts and seek an immediate freeze of the accounts.

"We urge the military police to be more active and speed up their investigation into this case before all the money disappears," Masduki said.

Ghalib, who celebrated his 53rd birthday on the day the ICW filed its report, has since denied the corruption charges and said the transfers could have been for the Indonesian Wrestling Association (PGSI), which he heads.

One of the accounts, which Ghalib has claimed as a PGSI account, had already been opened three weeks before he came to head the association in April, the ICW said.

A trace of one of the accounts showed that Ghalib had made a bank transfer of 495 million rupiah (about 63,000 dollars) for a payment of some seven kilograms (some 15.4 pounds) of gold to a jeweller in central Jakarta.

Meanwhile ICW member lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, whose office was ransacked on Monday, said he found client files missing as well as files of the organizations he belongs to.

Lubis at a separate press conference Tuesday said he had not accused Ghalib of masterminding the break-in of his office in a central Jakarta high-rise.

But he said he "doubted" it had anything to do with his work in the University Network for Free and Fair Election (UNFREL).

UNFREL is among the observer groups monitoring Indonesia's freest elections in four decades, held on Monday, the first since the resignation of Suharto in May, 1998.

Other files of Lubis's clients missing included oil tycoon Arifin Panigoro and businesman Sofyan Wanandi, both known to be sympathetic to Indonesia's political opposition.

Lubis on Monday did not rule out the possibility that the attack on his office could be connected to some of his other clients, including the US weekly magazine Time, which published an investigative report alleging that Suharto and his family had some 15 billion dollars in wealth.

Suharto on Wednesday filed a criminal defamation suit against Time for reporting that he had stashed some nine billion dollars of his alleged fortune in an Austrian bank.

Ghalib has been in charge of the months-long Indonesian probe into Suharto's wealth. His claims to have found no evidence of corruption have been met with charges of deliberate foot- dragging.

Late Tuesday, the government of Suharto's successor President B.J. Habibie said it had decided to set up a commission to monitor civil servants salaries -- before and after they took office.

Office of Time magazine ransacked

Agence France Presse - June 7, 1999

Jakarta -- Intruders ransacked the office of an Indonesian lawyer working for the US weekly magazine Time on Monday, days after former president Suharto filed a defamation suit against the magazine.

Security officers of the Bank Dharmala building in Central Jakarta discovered lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis's office ransacked at 4:30am. Monday morning.

"The ransacking was believed to have happened late last night. I was informed only after I had voted, which was at about 11," Lubis told AFP by phone.

He said his client files were taken in the raid and said the intruders must have been "high class criminals."

"They were not looking for any material wealth, but went after documents," he added.

Lubis did not rule out the possibility that the attack on his office could also be connected to some of his other clients, as well as Time.

"The whole office was ransacked, but particularly my office and all my documents of my clients are missing," he said, adding: "There is something bigger behind all this."

Lubis's clients include oil tycoon Arifin Panigoro and businesman Sofyan Wanandi, both known to be sympathetic to Indonesia's political opposition.

Lubis is also a member of the independent Indonesian Corruption Watchand the University Network for Free and Fair Elections (Unfrel).

Both Suharto and current President B.J. Habibie's government have allegedly suspected Panigoro and Wanandi of masterminding opposition to the state.

The ICW recently said it had found evidence that Attorney General Andi Ghalib, who is investigating the case of Suharto's alleged corruption, had been receiving bribes from troubled bankers. Ghalib has since denied the allegations.

Lubis said the police were "looking into" the attack on his office.

He told a press conference Thursday that Time continued to stand behind its May 24 report that Suharto and his family had amassed a 15-billion dollar fortune during the former strongman's 32 years in power.

Suharto on Wednesday filed a criminal defamation suit against Time magazine for a report alleging he had stashed some nine billion dollars in a foreign bank.
Economy and investment 

Investors give vote of confidence

Wall Street Journal - June 9, 1999

Jay Solomon, Jakarta -- Investors are registering a major vote of confidence in Indonesia's freest election in nearly a half century.

The stock market rose 12% Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund approved $450 million in aid, and local businessmen talked optimistically of restructuring debt-laden companies in a more- stable political environment.

"Political stability is the only chance for companies to survive, and the first major hurdle was cleared" in Monday's parliamentary election, said Indra Widjaja, president-director of PT Bank Internasional Indonesia, one of the largest private banks in the nation. "Interest rates and the currency should stabilize as political risk subsides."

Business investments in Indonesia have largely been put on hold in the months heading into the parliamentary vote. The rioting that swept the country last year -- and forced former President Suharto's resignation -- remained fresh in people's minds, and the assumption was that politics, combined with simmering ethnic and religious tensions, would set off another round of unrest during the campaign. Foreign-investment approvals plunged nearly 90% in the first 10 weeks of 1999, compared with the year earlier.

But the euphoric three-week campaign period ended up looking more like a rock concert than a war zone -- large-scale unrest never materialized. Monday's voting was calm and orderly.

Concerned about stability

Financial markets responded. Jakarta's key stock index rose 12% Tuesday to a 22-month high, while the nation's currency, the rupiah, has strengthened 5.6% since Friday, trading late Tuesday in Asia at 7,660 rupiah to the dollar. Traders said the market gains were fueled by "panic buying" driven by a perception that the political risks long associated with Indonesia were abating.

"It's all about country risk in Indonesia, and with the election over this risk subsides," said the Singapore-based trading chief at a US brokerage house. "People are not overly concerned about who's in charge of the country -- only that it's stable."

The IMF also placed its stamp of approval on the election by endorsing the $450 million loan late Monday in the US. While the fund never explicitly said it was withholding loans to Indonesia until after the election -- as the World Bank did -- it did delay a meeting that could have seen the funds disbursed earlier. Many observers saw this as the IMF pressing President B.J. Habibie's government for a free and fair vote.

Recovery outlook

Stanley Fischer, the first deputy managing director at the IMF, voiced optimism Monday in Washington over Indonesia's prospects for economic recovery. "With inflation falling and the exchange rate stable, there is room to reduce interest rates further, thus improving prospects for recovery," Mr. Fischer said. The IMF official also said Indonesia's economic growth was likely to become positive by the end of the year, while inflation would fall to single digits.

But many financial analysts still are cautious about Indonesia. On the corporate side, they say that many Indonesian companies remain insolvent because of the combination of a weak rupiah and billions of dollars of debt. Although interest rates have been falling -- one-month central-bank paper is now yielding 25%, down from 40% earlier in the year -- it is still too expensive for most companies to raise financing.

The idea that Jakarta's main index, now at 687, is within striking distance of its precrisis high of 740, hit in July 1997, is a portent of an overcooked market, they warn. "The prices can't hold from a fundamental point of view," said economist Neil Saker of SG Securities in Singapore.

Some observers warn that there could still be political tension ahead, despite the success of the actual vote. A fractious coalition government could emerge, making implementation of painful economic reforms all the more difficult.

'Very significant event'

But Indonesian businessmen still say the peaceful vote is significantly improving the investment climate.

Harun Hajadi, managing director of PT Ciputra, a major Indonesian property firm, said his attempts to restructure the company have been undercut by political risk over the past year. Foreign investors he courted balked because of perceived political and social risks; those who did consider projects demanded exorbitantly high returns. Sales of Ciputra's private homes fell 70% from precrisis levels, to 3,000 units last year, as soaring interest rates killed off consumer demand, Mr. Harun said.

But now he sees his business fortunes improving, mainly as a result of falling interest rates. "The peacfulness of the election was a very significant event," he said.

Mr. Widjaja of Bank Internasional Indonesia, who is in the process of recapitalizing the bank, also said the calm will help him, too. Indonesian banks have been crushed by negative spreads -- which means they pay borrowers higher rates than they earn from deposits. "This situation should improve" as a result of the vote, he said.

Perhaps most importantly, the peaceful votes could woo back Indonesia's ethnic-Chinese business class, whose shops and homes bore the brunt of much of last year's violence. Though the memories of last May's rioting remains fresh in their minds, and some continue to keep their families overseas for security reasons, many say they feel the security situation in the country is starting to improve.

"During the past year I lost half of all I owned," said Richard Hakim, an ethnic Chinese businessman who owns the toiletries producer PT Kintamolek Masa. "Things can only get better."

Home | Site Map | Calendar & Events | News Services | Resources & Links | Contact Us