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  Indonesia: Megawati must now move beyond symbolism

Jakarta/Brussels, 10 September 2001: The installation of Megawati Soekarnoputri as President after months of political turmoil was greeted with relief in Indonesia. And in her first weeks in office, Megawati has sent out positive signals with many of her cabinet choices, her remarks on Aceh and Irian Jaya, and warnings to her family to avoid corruption. However, overall the mood continues to be pessimistic. Beyond nationalist rhetoric and broad guidelines the new President has given little indication of policy direction.

The International Crisis Group today publishes a briefing paper, The Megawati Presidency, which assesses the new government’s ability to deal with the tasks ahead including the urgent need for economic reform and recovery, issues affecting territorial integrity, ethnic and religious violence and corruption.

ICG President Gareth Evans said: “The new government faces daunting challenges in almost every field. But there are concerns that it may prove unwilling or unable to follow through with the reforms that Indonesia needs. Megawati should now move rapidly beyond symbolism to implement clear policies on the economy, security and judicial reform.”

In general, Megawati has been praised for her choices of ministers, especially for economic jobs. The two key co-ordinating ministers – Dorodjatun Kuntjorojakti and General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono are regarded as sophisticated actors on the political stage.

However her delayed choice for Attorney General, M.A. Rahman, has injected a note of real concern. For 35 years Rahman was a little known career prosecutor in the notoriously corrupt Attorney General’s office and was responsible for a limp investigation into abuses in East Timor. The appointment signals that the President may not take the robust steps against corruption that the country so desperately needs. It has also led to anxieties about the lingering influence of those military leaders who are determined to avoid prosecution for their role in human rights abuses.

ICG’s Indonesia program director Dr Harold Crouch warns that public disillusion with the political system is spreading. “Few Indonesians have high expectations of the Megawati government. The President’s past record does not indicate she has the political vision and drive to revive the reform agenda promised after the fall of Soeharto. The best that can be hoped for seems to be that individual ministers will be able to introduce incremental improvements – but that will not be enough to bring Indonesia back from the brink.”

Contacts: Katy Cronin and Sascha Pichler at ICG Brussels, +32 2 536 00 64 or 70, email: [email protected]
All ICG reports are available on our website www.crisisweb.org


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