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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 19:26 GMT 20:26 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Megawati breaks her silence

Megawati delivered an impassioned speech

By Jonathan Head in Jakarta

Indonesia's leading opposition leader, Megawati Sukarnoputri, has broken a two month silence with a speech in which she insisted that last month's election gave her party a mandate to form a new government.

Indonesia Flashpoints
Megawati's Democratic Party of Struggle won around 34% of the vote, giving it the largest block of seats in the next parliament.

But under Indonesia's complex two-stage electoral process, she is not guaranteed the presidency.

Her long and passionate speech will ease fears amongst some of her followers that she lacks the determination to win the top job.

At one point she broke down in tears as she pleaded for an end to violence in the conflict-torn regions of her country.

Protecting Indonesia's unity

Clashes have again broken out this week between Christians and Muslims on the island of Ambon.

Last week government troops shot dead at least 31 civilians in the province of Aceh after a series of attacks by separatist rebels.

Megawati promised to give back the Acehnese their human rights and to give them more control over the province's rich natural resources.

But like her father, Indonesia's first president Sukarno, she is opposed to any moves that threaten Indonesia's unity.

Promise to East Timor

Megawati has long viewed the referendum on possible independence for East Timor, offered by President Habibie, to be the mistaken policy of a transitional government.

But in her speech she promised to abide by the results of the ballot, while ruling out a similar exercise anywhere else in the archipelago.

She also pledged a just investigation of alleged corruption by former President Suharto if she won office.

The speech skilfully displayed the qualities, like her anguish over injustice and violence, that have made Megawati so popular with millions of Indonesians.

But it also showed conservative instincts which will not readily accept the political reforms many Indonesians believe their country must have if it is to survive its current economic and social turmoil.



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