The Guardian August 15, 2001


Indonesia:
A new President but what course will she take?

The removal of Indonesia's former President,Abdurrahman Wahid, was 
engineered by a combination of Indonesia's conservative politicians many of 
whom are survivors from the Suharto days and Indonesia's military which 
also owes allegiance to the Suharto regime and has been armed and trained 
by the US, Australia and other imperialist countries.

These countries had a major hand in the installation of the Suharto regime 
and the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian communists in 1965. 
They are not going to give up their rich prize now.

In Megawati Sukarnoputri, they see someone who can be manipulated and who, 
by failing to help defend President Wahid and stand up to the conservative 
and militarist forces that undermined him, has shown an opportunist streak. 
Megawati remained silent during this period.

The announcement of her first Cabinet has not removed these perceptions, 
although Megawati came to prominence in the struggle to overthrow the 
Suharto regime and has, consequently, built up a substantial popular base 
among peasants, workers and students.

Her Cabinet team has won the plaudits of the big corporations, the 
Indonesion stock exchange and the extremely reactionary governments of 
Australia and the US.

Key economic portfolios have gone to so called "technocrats" who, in fact, 
are prominent in banking circles and have ties with the International 
Monetary Fund (IMF).

The IMF has been holding up a large loan to Indonesia for some time 
refusing to "sign-off" on the loan until it was assured President Wahid's 
successor would accept the inevitable conditions that the IMF invariably 
imposes on recipient countries. It is now expected that with a Cabinet and 
President likely to implement IMF demands, it will allow the loan to go 
ahead.

The usual demands of the IMF include massive privatisation, anti-trade 
union legislation, raise the prices of basic commodities, wage and social 
welfare cuts  even though the present wage levels of Indonesian workers 
are at slave-labour levels and social welfare programs are virtually non-
existent for the majority of the people.

The Finance Minister is a former acting director of the World Bank, while 
the chief economics Minister is the outgoing ambassador to the US and a 
strong advocate of IMF policies.

The Industry and Trade Minister is the daughter of a Workd Bank executive 
in Washington and is reported to be a ruthless business executive. Not 
surprisingly, the World Bank representative in Indonesia has given the 
Cabinet the thumbs up.

Megawati gave as her priorities the stabilisation of the currency that has 
not recovered since the currency crisis of 1997, repairing the banking 
system and encouraging new investment.

There is nothing in this for the impoverished people of Indonesia who 
suffered appallingly under the Suharto dictatorship and will suffer further 
from IMF economic policies that have proven a failure in every other 
country.

Megawati Sukarnoputri has undoubtedly gained popularity by virtue of her 
being the daughter of Indonesia's first President who came to power in the 
struggle against Dutch colonialism.

President Sukarno was one of the architects of the policies of Non-
allignment Movement which were implemented by many of the Third World 
countries and were directly against the former colonialist regimes.

It remains to be seen whether Megawati has inherited any of her father's 
anti-colonialist sentiments and his commitment to the real interests of the 
Indonesian people.

In announcing her Cabinet, Megawati appealed for unity and co-operation. 
But is it to be unity and co- operation to implement policies that will 
bring only more suffering, poverty, unemployment and continued domination 
by the big corporations and the US and other imperialist countries?

Or, alternatively, will she be able to break free from these policies and 
lead the struggle of the Indonesian people to at last throw off the 
shackles of militarism and the continued colonialist type domination of the 
Western powers?

There is nothing to suggest in her first Cabinet lineup that the second 
option is even in her mind.

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