The resignation of Soeharto as a president and the appointment of Habibie as his inheritor --this was far from a democratic process -- is nothing but an attempt to maintain the Soeharto regime itself. His resignation from the presidency is nothing but an attempt to pacify the people's anger. Had he refused to step down, the people's anger would have been greater. There would have been ever larger crowds. If the crowds were mobilized in greater numbers, they would not only oust the president, they would end the whole New Order governing system, his family's businesses, even the personal safety of him and his cronies. Simply put, the resignation of Soeharto is for minimizing the damage of the people's resistance and curbing the resistance itself
SOEHARTO IS THE PUPPET MASTER, HABIBIE IS THE PUPPET
Soeharto's term "lengser keprabon, madheg pandhito" (from Javanese : step down from the crown, become a priest/counsellor) became clearer to us. He formally resigned from his post and will still play a role behind the screen. In other words, he is now the puppet master who can freely choose the puppet to play. The puppet is Habibie, a figure who can be used to manipulate the Muslim community with his skill in employing Islamic symbols. He is also part of the circle which is loyal to Soeharto and this allows an opportunity for Soeharto to play the puppet master.
Soeharto obviously wants that his successor should be somebody he can control. Therefore, he appointed the vice president as his successor. Once more, Soeharto trampled on the principles of democracy. The presidential post is supposed to be determined by the House of Representatives (MPR), regardless of the fact that the MPR itself is also Soeharto's puppet. Presidential seat is not supposed to be bequeathed to the vice-president. A presidential election through a Special Assembly Session of the MPR would have allowed for other alternatives to emerge. People's pressure can force the MPR to elect a figure whom Soeharto does not want even if this figure might come from the New Order circle.
Soeharto does not need to find a successor who is morally clean as long as he can control him. Habibie is no different from Soeharto. He is also a nepotist and a crony capitalist who owns many family businesses.
SOEHARTO CLIQUE IS STILL SOLID, THE MILITARY IS STILL LOYAL
The bequeathing of the presidential post to Habibie does not necessarily create conflict within his clique. Even the most ambitious leaders within the military accept him. This shows that Soeharto and his power block is still solid and fully under his control. Huge demonstrations for the past few months have indeed encouraged some elements of Soeharto's supporters to take a strong position against him. Nevertheless, Soeharto's real power is in a way still complete.
Now Soeharto's clique has a bad image in front of the people. They apparently realized that. Therefore they agreed to step back a little. But they will find an opportunity to strike back against the pro-democracy forces. When is their counter-attack going to be launched ? It will be launched when they think it will not cause mass anger. The military blundered by shooting six heroes of reform at Trisakti University on May 12. The shooting was fatal for Suharto's position even if Suharto might have wanted to avoid such a result.
General Wiranto as the Minister of Defense/Chief Commander of the Armed Forces (ABRI) also showed his untainted loyalty to the 'ex' president and his inheritor, Habibie. It is very unfortunate that there are still activists within the pro-democracy movement who dream that the military will support reform. Some are even naive enough to believe that that there will be no change without the military's support.
The mass uprising on May 14, no matter how small, had pushed the political climate for change without the help of the military. In fact, the military attempted to prevent the change. At a time when the military is still solid like this, do we still expect that they will support reform ? Note that compared to the corrupt and opportunist civilian officials like Harmoko and Abdul Latief, the military officials are far more conservative and anti-reform. No matter how corrupt Harmoko and Abdul Latief, they could still be pressured to demand Soeharto to step down. But, look at those generals --except for the retired ones who are clearly beyond Soeharto's control -- the difference between them and robots are only in the raw materials.
ONCE MORE : TOTAL REFORM !
The transfer of the presidency from Soeharto to Habibie is not supposed to weaken our struggle. The transfer does not indicate that Soeharto has rolled the reform ball. The New Order has not moved an inch toward reform. Once more, what has been done is only to curb the demand for reform and to present an illusion so that the people's anger will subside. There is no change in Soeharto regime.
Remember, the basic demands of the mass has not been fulfilled, i.e.:
1 . Repeal Five Political Laws of 1985
2 . Ending to Dual Function of ABRI
3 . Responsibility and Trial for Soeharto
4 . Confiscation of the cronies' business assets
5 . Confiscation of the wealth of corrupt officials
6 . Free, democratic, multi-party election
7 . Release of political prisoners
The bequeathing of the presidency to Habibie should not manipulate people's conscience. We have to make it clear once more : TOTAL REFORM, NOT HALF-HEARTED REFORM ! The road of total reform should be completely under the control of the people to avoid any attempt to deviate from the path chosen. The one who should control the path is People's Council (or whatever name is chosen) which is established by the people, not by the regime.
PARTAI RAKYAT DEMOKRATIK ( P R D )
PEOPLE'S DEMOCRATIC PARTY, INDONESIA
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Mon, 25 May 1998 01:00:02 +0200
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