INDEPENDENT NEWS

The Mood In Jakarta Is Tense...

Published: Thu 23 Sep 1999 04:38 PM
10am Jakarta Time - 3pm NZT: "We're expecting 10,000 students in the street, and I'd give you better than even money one of them get's shot", a Jakarta journalist tells Scoop down the phone line. And yes the new "security" laws before Parliament will most likely be passed - certainly will in fact. Scoop's Alastair Thompson reports
NOTE: The following was gleaned from a conversation with a reporter in Jakarta this afternoon NZT - morning Jakarta Time. It is in effect a reconstruction of the conversation and is not a transcript of it. The journalist is not named as the conversation wasn't clearly on the record.
The view from Jakarta incognito:>
The outgoing Suharto Parliament is expected to today pass a security law which in effect gives the military the right to declare martial law whenever and wherever it deems necessary in the interests of national security.
The incoming Parliament could change the law, but in the present climate in Jakarta it is far from sure they will want to.
In effect the final vestige of the Suharto regime is to be a pair of handcuffs for the new Indonesian Parliament - due to be sworn in on October 5.
This is the parliament elected in June after the first truly democratic elections in Indonesia's history and in which the Indonesian military's power has been severely diminished. Then the student's and the million's of followers of Amien Rais celebrated. Now however it appears the real-politik of Indonesia is setting in no thanks to recent events in Indonesia.
Q: So does Megawati Sukarnoputri support the legislation?
A: She hasn't said she doesn't.
Q: And Gus Dur [The leader of one of the other key parties in the new parliament]?
A: He called for a jihad against the Australian's!
And Amien Rais [the other major opposition party leader]?
A: He has no power to stop it.
Q: Is the rising nationalism due to events in East Timor is a factor?
A: The law certainly has more support than it would have had.
Q: So what will the law mean?
A: It is very broadly worded and will enable the government to effectively declare martial law whenever deemed necessary. Even if not used it will hang over the head of the incoming government and will give the military far more power than they would otherwise have - which is, of course, the intention.
Q: Can it be repealed?
A: Not easily once passed and could take months. Besides which the incoming Parliament and President (Yes Megawati!) may be quite happy with the situation.
Q: So this is effectively a big gift of power to General Wiranto?
A: Yes.
Q: And Megawati Sukarnoputri doesn't mind?
A: Wiranto is just as likely to stand behind Megawati than against her in the upcoming presidential race.
Q: So you don't give much credence to the theory that Wiranto will step down in October in order to run for the President's job for the traditional ally of the Military - Golkar?
A: No. He is just as happy being the power behind the thrown which is what this law gives him.
Alastair Thompson
Scoop Publisher
Alastair Thompson is the co-founder of Scoop. He is of Scottish and Irish extraction and from Wellington, New Zealand. Alastair has 24 years experience in the media, at the Dominion, National Business Review, North & South magazine, Straight Furrow newspaper and online since 1997. He is the winner of several journalism awards for business and investigative work.
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