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Sunday, May 24, 1998 Published at 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK


Opinion from outside Indonesia



How the crisis in Indonesia is seen by people in other countries.

James Dunn, Australia
As one who has studied Indonesia for more than 40 years, I am encouraged by the change so far, but it is essentially a beginning, a change at the top but not of the regime as such. One of Habibie's appointments troubles. As author of Timor: A People Betrayed, years ago I wrote a study of the killing of the newsmen at Balibo, which included two British subjects. The officer in charge of the 200 or so Indonesian troops who entered the village and then executed the newsmen was one Captain Yunus Yosfiah, who has now surfaced as Minister for Information in the Habibie government. Yosfiah not only has a lot to answer for, for these killings. He was later a battalion commander in Timor when Indonesian troops killed thousands of Timorese. In fact, if an enquiry into crimes against humanity were to be conducted into that tragic episode, which cost more than a quarter of East Timor's population, Yosfiah would certainly have to face an investigation. Since, according to my research, he subsequently lied about the events of October 1975 he is an unlikely Information Minister.

Matthew Ong, United States of America
Suharto has to step down. 32 years is a very long time for anyone to stay in power. As long as the Suharto regime remains in power, nothing will change. The billions of dollars that the IMF pumps into Indonesia will avail to nothing...because the money isn't the problem. What we have here is a system that doesn't work, is corrupt and peppered with nepotism. I believe it was Einstein who said that the answer to the problems cannot be found at the level it was created (or words to this effect). Thus, I maintain, that the regime that created these problems are probably not the best nor the right parties to resolve the current state of things. New talent or genius is required to do the things that have not been done before...a new leadership!

Johan Coorg, UK
The finger must surely be pointed at the Suharto regime- a combination of blatant cronyism plus suppression of the have-nots, plus the fact that the whole atmosphere of society has been kind of hypocritical; on the one hand despising "Western decadence" yet on the other fully endorsing consumerism in the extreme (like the yuppie era of the 80's). Something had to blow.

Sandra Haigh, Tauranga, New Zealand
Sitting here in the relative safety of New Zealand, I wonder that Suharto has not been forced to return the millions that he is thought to have siphoned out of the Indonesian economy into Swiss bank accounts. Instead, the world must pay for what are essentially his mistakes. Why?

Maggie lives in the United States of America but has Indonesian family through marriage
My name is Maggie. I was from Malaysia but now married and residing in the United States. My ex-husband's family are from Indonesia and many of them are still there in Medan. Whenever I meet with them, they would tell me all the horror stories of Indonesia, how the Chinese are being persecuted for no fault of theirs. They don't even have the right to have a Chinese name. They were forced to have Indonesian names. What's the purpose of all this ? The Indonesians are jealous of the Chinese thinking they are wealthy but what they don't realise is that they are lazy and do not work hard to get what they want while the Chinese do. Killing all the Chinese and looting their business is not going to help them. They need to realise and work hard themselves instead of trying to steal what others have worked for. What they are doing now is destroying their country even further, driving away potential foreign investors. I hope some international power will step in to help the unfortunate Chinese there. Those Chinese who could afford to leave the country had left when the economic problem started even without the violence having begun because they knew this was going to happen. I came to know this from my ex's friend from Jakarta. He and his family are in Malaysia now, safe from the violence but what about the rest who had to stay ? Shame on the Indonesians !

John Webb, United Kingdom, has several years experience of living in Indonesia
I lived in Indonesia for five years and have a love of the country. I know the military well and know how they think. Searching your website on the latest from Indonesia I am struck with the lack of attention given to Suharto's successor and the implications. The vice-president is Habibie (related through marriage to Suharto) and he is dangerous for Indonesia. A technocrat trained in Germany, he instituted in Indonesia massive technological projects which certainly created a lot of jobs but cost the country a huge amount of money and were visionary rather than practical. They were too big and far exceeded the needs of the country. Examples: An aircraft-building and designing industry? Should Suharto go and Habibie take over I REALLY feel for the future of Indonesia. The only consolation I gain from this is that the military do not like Habibie and I don't think, and hope, would support him. To your Jakarta correspondent I look forward with interest to your reports on this.

American citizen who lives in Batam Island next to Singapore explains how the crisis is being viewed there
Batam is mainly an newly developed industrial area that also has a high number of chinese. Flights from other parts of the country (especially from Jakarta and Medan) are full with new arrivals trying to seek some refuge from other parts of the country.

So we are becoming somewhat of a "safe haven" in this time of turmoil.

Business transactions have almost come to a standstill. With Bank Indonesia closed since yesterday businesses do not official rates for the Rupiah. This means that many shops and businesses do not know at what rate to sell their products as many have adopted flexible pricing policies during the recent months with prices going up and down with the sudden moves of the Rupiah.

Local opinion does seem to indicate that Suharto may not be able to pull off a graceful exit, it could be too late for that. While the student movement does not have the focus of the "people power" event in the Philippines (which I also witnessed) and does not yet have a leader to rally around, they seem to be increasingly willing to risk all for just the sake of reform.

Merril Yu, Hong Kong, US citizen having lived in Jakarta from 1994 to 1996
History will record that the removal of food and fuel subsidies led to the removal of the Suharto regime. History must also record that IMF well-meaning but disastrously naive demands led to the deaths we have seen this week. And this is only the beginning...

Alex, United Kingdom
I would appeal to the people of Indonesia for one last time to stand by Suharto, as hard as this seems, and bear in mind that change will come, but it better for the country if that change comes peacefully. Remember that the World Bank and IMF, with the United States supporting it, are the real problem with economic reform at this moment in Indonesia.

Stuart Barnes, United Kingdom
The question now is what will happen to Indonesia in the vacuum left by the recent unrest? Who or what will emerge to take over the leadership of the country? Watch out for more Western manipulation and machination!

Eve Faber-Hibou, Aix-en-Provence, South of France
Watching the BBC World news tonight 14th May, Louis MacNeice's poem 'Prayer Before Birth' comes to mind. 'I am not yet born, O hear me'. Having studied Javanese culture and lived in the country for nearly three years in the eighties, I am not surprised by this latest bloody outbreak.

I fear for all ethnic minorities, most especially the Chinese. My message is this: that the volcanic mob looting and destroying 'senselessly' is just the overflow of a boiling pot that has been trying to blow off for a long time. Indonesia is sick of being repressed by a traditionalist model of government that has hanged itself with financial mismanagement. A democratic vote is one of the first essentials Indonesians need to give them a chance to express themselves, to aid the country in its desire and right to be an adult nation.

Steve Yeo from Texas, USA grew up in Indonesia
I have three brothers with families in Indonesia. I grew up in Indonesia. So, in a word, I am living this crisis in Indonesia.

There are three major groups who we can lay the blame on: the political class and their excesses, the super rich and their avarice (both Chinese and Pribumi) and the bureaucrats and textbook economists in the IMF.

I reserve my most bitter venom for this last group ... imposing their pet theories on a country through financial leverage, without understanding (or caring) that one theory does not fit all, for what - personal glory?

I hope Michel Camdessus sleeps well these nights, he should try and take the place of a rioter who lost his job six months ago, and whose family have not had a decent meal for the last month, or a Chinese small businessman who has seen everything he worked for disappeared overnight.

He should take take famous picture of him, arms folded, smug look on his face, overseeing a humiliated Soeharto signing away his country's future, blow it up, and frame it for posterity. The caption should read :"How I destroyed the economy of world's fifth most populated country".

Doug Roberts writes from Australia.
We are obviously concerned here in Australia; this is on our doorstep. However, as a private citizen, for me your special report says it all . . "Suharto successfully quelled occasional bouts of anti-government unrest, but it was the financial crisis that struck Indonesia last year that presented him with the gravest political crisis of his rule. The crisis made glaringly obvious the fundamental flaws in Suharto's style of leadership.

He had failed to foster robust independent institutions that could keep the economy healthy. He had secured lucrative business contracts for his friends, his six children and their families. Indonesia's economy had come to resemble Suharto, Inc.

Lyckle Griek, Japan
The Indonesian crisis just shows how fragile the Asian miracle of recent years really is, that much of the new prosperity gained by countries in the region has fallen in the hands of a relative few. Governments in Southeast Asia for a long period of time have been able to invest and grow just enough to keep social problems at bay.

The unrest in Indonesia has only just started and there is good reason to expect similar problems in countries like Malaysia which,in terms of the division of economic wealth, has the same social structure as Indonesia.

Most ot the people in Indonesia are not vigorously demanding democratic reforms, the current crisis is basically attack of the have nots on the haves.

Stephanie Lee, Singapore comments
Everyone knows the current government in Indonesia does nothing more than feather its own nests. And there are many nests in the family too. Along the way, there are bound to be some scraps and bits where they can throw to the common folk who have had nothing, so any bit is a lot.

This is what I got from speaking to Indonesians over the last few years. Foreign governments too, know that and have been quite happy to go along so long as they can benefit from the situation.

Mel B from the Philippines makes comparisons with the 'people power' revolution there
It's a pity really that President Suharto and his entire government failed to learn from their next door neighbor - the Philippines - when their so-called idol and co-dictator, "Ferdinand Marcos" was deposed in a popular revolt, 12 years ago ! Was Suharto not aware that the same thing could happen to him and his immediate family including cronies?

In fairness though, President Suharto contributed a lot to Indonesia's development and progress. To a large extent, his iron-fisted policies worked well for the Indonesian people; perhaps, just too long for a leadership of three decades ! He should, however, realize that this is not forever. In this regard, it's about time for him to face the music.

Heru Mafudi New York, NY
What is to be done after the smouldering embers dwindle? Will foreign investors come back and assume normal operations? Will the Chinese merchants open shop again? Will the military and police investigate on the many deaths incurred these past days? How long will it take for Indonesia recover to prosperity and liberty. I fear for this nation.

Doug Roberts, Australia
We are obvioulsy concerned here in Australia; this is on our doorstep. However, as a private citizen, for me your special report says it all . . "Suharto successfully quelled occasional bouts of anti-government unrest, but it was the financial crisis that struck Indonesia last year that presented him with the gravest political crisis of his rule. The crisis made glaringly obvious the fundamental flaws in Suharto's style of leadership. He had failed to foster robust independent institutions that could keep the economy healthy. He had secured lucrative business contracts for his friends, his six children and their families. Indonesia's economy had come to resemble Suharto, Inc. "

S L, Vancouver, Canada
I think that all the rioters should be punished right away and the security forces have done the right thing. There is no human right in this matter. They are no longer protesters, they are criminals now. They killed, looted and destroyed other people's propertiy. It's a crime, and crime must be stopped.

Lyckle Griek lgriek, Japan
The Indonesian crisis just shows how fragile the Asian miracle of recent years really is, that much of the new prosperity gained by countries in the region has fallen into the hands of a relative few. Governments in Southeast Asia for a long period of time have been able to invest and grow just enough to keep social problems at bay. The unrest in Indonesia has only just started and there is good reason to expect similar problems in countries like Malaysia which, in terms of the division of economic wealth, has the same social structure as Indonesia. Most ot the people in Indonesia are not vigorously demanding democratic reforms, the current crisis is basically the attack of the have nots on the haves.

J P Joseph, US
I think 200 million people have suffered for far too long. There is no denying that the ethnic Chinese and the President's family have been the main beneficiaries of the New Order system, while the vast majority have hovered at or below the poverty level. The Asian Crisis of '97 was a God-sent catalyst that is speeding up the demise of a regime whose time was up. It is hoped that Indonesia will fare better in the post-Suharto period, striving for equitable distribution of that nation's immense wealth. Hopefully the native Indonesian will have a better deal in future. There is still that unresolved issue of East Timor..........!

Christian believes that the troubles in Indonesia will soon be mirrored elsewhere in Asia.
Just came back from Bali last night on a crowded China air flight out to Taipei. The raise of oil and kerosene prices was a slash in the knees to the Indonesian people. At the same time there is an old man that is no longer in control and a group with mayor interests at stake. To top it off comes the IMF with its own logical narrow minded conditions, so to squeeze every one else in a situation already boiling. The conditions are set to evolve rapidly for the better or worse - but much blood could be spared if the rest of the world politicians understood that it is only a mere reflection of what is happening elsewhere [India! above all nations!!] and by self reflexion issue reconciliatory and truthfull desire to help transition not only Indonesia its own crisis but in everyone's own house. There is still this tendency of framing every event in the world as if it had its own life, not realizing that consciousness is rapidly evolving and with it a new understanding that the planet can no longer tolerate people that are takers in their heart. Or does ignorance will have its way with politicians and leaders all the way to extinction?!




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