Where to now for Indonesia?
When former Indonesian President Wahid left the presidential palace last week, he was greeted by a big crowd of supporters with a banner reading "Welcome home". The former President promised to continue the struggle for reform and urged his supporters to show restraint. His wishes were respected and there was no violence after Indonesia's first post-Suharto President was ousted by his political opponents. Wahid had been charged with corruption — a charge thrown out by an Indonesian court. His opponents then switched their charges to indecision and incompetence. Many of those responsible for pushing Wahid out of office have links to the former Suharto dictatorship and the military. They thrived under the former regime and sabotaged and opposed every attempt of Wahid to prosecute the military officers responsible for the bloodshed in East Timor or to negotiate acceptable regional solutions with independence movements in a number of areas. The policies of Megawati Sukarnoputri, Indonesia's new President, remain largely unknown. She is expected to announce a cabinet made up of representatives of the disperate forces that combined to oust President Wahid. It remains to be seen whether she is a prisoner (willing or not) of the military, the conservative forces, the big corporations and of the US. Indonesia's problems are immense — very high unemployment, poverty, run- down public services, a restless population, unchecked logging of national forests, a ballooning budget deficit, ethnic and religious conflicts. None of these problems can be solved by a political reshuffle. Immediately upon the dismissal of Wahid the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank made demands for the implementation of their economic recipes calling for "restructuring" of the economy. The IMF is poised to sign a long-delayed letter of intent and to unfreeze US$400 million in loans. While the IMF denied that it was waiting for Wahid's dismissal an IMF team left Jakarta in mid-July without signing anything while Wahid remained President. With the now-familiar chant of "reforms are urgently needed", there are demands for privatisation and a market economy. Not a word is being said about the impact of these policies on those who are living in poverty and unemployment. The US immediately announced its intention of resuming contacts with Indonesia's armed forces that were suspended after the violence in East Timor. There are also plans to resume military training of Indonesian officers and arms sales. This week's ministerial talks in Canberra between US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld and Howard, Downer, Reith and others have, as one of their aims, an increase in Australia's "responsibility" to do the dirty work for the US in the region. There is an intention to keep Australian military forces in East Timor for a long period and to establish a military base there or a US base in the Darwin area. However, the Indonesian people who threw out the Dutch colonialists and recently brought an end to the Suharto dictatorship will not wish to accept either an American or Australian diktat.