Indonesia. In Indonesia the military-dominated regime has for
decades ensured that no opposition statements disturbed the
image of a people in complete harmony with the official
state ideology. In the protection of a totalitarian system,
the economy has made a spectacular upswing in recent years.
But in 1996, 75-year-old President Suharto, whose position
of power has not been threatened in 30 years, became a
challenger. The 49-year-old housewife Megawati Sukarnoputri
had no political credentials and was not a great speaker,
but she was the daughter of the country's mythical first
president, Sukarno. Wide population strata, increasingly
frustrated by political freedom and the corruption of the
elite, turned to her in a combination of nostalgia and the
dream of something new. She was the leader of the Democratic
Party, Partai Demokrasi Indonesia (PDI), one of the two
legal "opposition parties" created by the regime to shine a
democratic system. Now, harmless PDI suddenly became so
dangerous that the regime organized an extra party congress
in June where Megawati was deposed.
Countryaah.com, the intervention against Megawati triggered the strongest
protests against the regime since it came to power in 1966.
For two days at the end of July, Jakarta was shaken by
crowds after the military expelled the Megawati supporters
who occupied PDI's headquarters for over a month. At least
two people were killed and about fifty injured. The unrest
caused material damage to the multi-million dollar amount in
Jakarta's business district. The government responded to the
protests by arresting a large number of oppositionists,
including union leader Muchtar Pakpahan, who risks being
sentenced for overthrowing activities, which could result in
the death penalty. Many PDI members were also prosecuted,
while Megawati, for its part, initiated a legal process to
have the provision lifted.
The image of a shaken power apparatus includes
information about the aging president's faltering health and
the severe blow to his wife's death in April for him.
Suharto's 45-year-old son-in-law, Prabowo Subianto, has made
a lightning career in the army and in August was named Major
General, the youngest to date. His advancement gave rise to
rumors that Suharto is preparing for a change of power.
Suharto was also challenged from elsewhere. A former MP,
Bintang Pamungkas, was sentenced to close to three years in
prison for calling Suharto "dictator". Waiting for the
verdict to come into force, he formed a new party and
announced that he would run in the 1998 presidential
election, just as the former Megawati Sukarnoputri intended
The Norwegian Nobel Committee's decision to award the
1996 Peace Prize to East Timor's Catholic Bishop Carlos
Filipe Ximenes Belo and the independence leader Jos谷
Ramos-Horta may not have been a hard blow to the Indonesian
regime but at least an annoying ear file.