an area of the map for world news.
the October, 2001 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 48, No.
to the Challenge
(independent newsmagazine), Jakarta, Indonesia, July 31-Aug. 6, 2001.
Sukarnoputri grew up in the State Palace. From the time of her birth,
she witnessed the daily life of a presidenther own father, Bung
[meaning Brother] Karno [as Sukarno was popularly known]. Sukarno
was appointed [Indonesias first] head of state two years before
Mega was born and was ousted just after her 20th birthday. Because
of that experience, watching intrigues at the center of power was
one of her activities as a teen-ager. After [her fathers ouster],
Mega and other members of Bung Karnos family lived through difficult
times as a result of their closeness to a figure viewed by the new
regime as being responsible for the decline of the Republic of Indonesia.
Father, Like Daughter:
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri inspects a royal
guard-of-honor during an official visit to Kuala Lampur, Malaysia,
Aug. 27, 2001 (Photo: AFP).
Just take a close look at the way Suhartos government justified
the removal of Sukarno and his legitimacy as head of state. The New
Order, according to its founders, was set up to carry out a complete
correction of the last years of the Sukarno government. The authoritarian
[Sukarno] regime was blamed for having brought the nation to the edge
of an abyss, making Indonesia a source of instability in Southeast
Asia and bankrupting the national economy with inflation of 600 percent
and unpaid foreign debts. Meanwhile, corrupt officials lived in luxury
and safety. It was clearly a political order that had to be totally
Thats why the New Order was officially ordained as the antithesis
of Bung Karnos government, which wasscornfullynamed
the Old Order. Indonesia then became the main supporter of ASEAN [Association
of Southeast Asian Nations], seen as the cornerstone of Southeast
Asian stability. Economic development became the top priority, so
much so that it trumped political freedom. Sukarno had put politics
in charge, but Suharto turned this theory on its head and replaced
politics with economics.
But as it turned out, this antithesis succeeded for only three decades.
Now its as if history is repeating itself. The New Order, which
idolized economic development and which became more authoritarian
as it continued, fell victim to the worst economic crisis in the nations
history. Government debt suddenly mushroomed to the size of the countrys
gross domestic product.
The stability that was a source of pride for three decades turned
out to be pure illusion. Oppressive acts by the military in the name
of unity and integrity only resulted in strengthened separatist
movements in several regions rich in natural resources.
Into a situation such as this, the government of Megawati Sukarnoputri
came into being. She had of course already served two years
apprenticeship as number two to Abdurrahman Wahida president
with hardly any management skills, although he initially attracted
widespread support. Megawati also witnessed the transitional government
of [former President B.J.] Habibiea government strong on management
but weak on legitimacy. Megawati and her advisers would do well to
study the assortment of leaders Indonesia has had, each with good
and bad points.
There are certain thinkers who see Indonesias progress as a
nation as an interesting experiment, especially in the context of
the new theory that says there are three main pillars of a state:
the government, the market, and its people. Those engrossed by the
idea that the government is the main pillar of society tend to be
socialists. Those who believe in the power of the market choose the
capitalist road. Now these two schools of thoughteach aware
of its own flawshave gravitated toward the center, equidistant
from both extremes, and given rise to the movement for a civil society.
Bung Karno was a leader who concentrated only on the power of government
and the support of the people. He can be said to have ignored the
market, and that was what led to his downfall. Suharto, meanwhile,
gave the market and government a lot of thought, but ignored the people.
As a result, the collusion of bureaucrats and tycoons became epidemic
and led to high economic costs and a hugely unfair distribution of
wealth. The reform movement, with its agenda to wipe out corruption,
collusion, and nepotism, is a result of this ignoring of the people.
Learning from her predecessors, Megawati must build the three pillars
if she wants her presidency to succeed. She especially cannot ignore
these pillars when she forms her cabinet. From the political aspect,
it would certainly be no mistake to share seats in proportion to each
partys share of the vote in the election. The economic team
especially must be made up of people trusted by the markets. If just
one of the three pillars is ignored, Megawatis government will
not last long. [Megawatis cabinet choices, announced on Aug.
10, were praised for being well-balanced and professional. Dorodjatun
Kuntoro-Jakti, an economist who has been U.S. ambassador, was named
as the overall economic coordinator; Boediono, the former chief of
national economic planning, the new finance minister; Hassan Wirayudha,
a senior career diplomat, the new foreign minister; and Bambang Susilo
Yudhoyono, a former general who held the same post under Wahid until
he was fired, was named as chief political and security minister.WPR]
This system of determining cabinet seats must be followed, especially
for those posts related to upholding the law. No matter how skilled
the economic team, they will be unable to function unless backed up
by a team that upholds the law. Finding a figure like [Baharuddin]
Lopa will not be easy, but is not impossible. [Wahids justice
minister and then-attorney general was well-known for his uncompromising
and honest manner of upholding the law. He died of a heart attack
just a few weeks before Wahids impeachment.WPR]
So Megawati has a lot of homework to do. It is certainly not
easy, but her presidency should be seen as a golden opportunity
that should not be thrown away. Her father put into practice
a thesis of leadership that freed the nation from colonialism
and formed a republic, but failed on the economic front. Suharto
gave his antithesis that managed to build an economy-based nation,
but it failed to take off. Now Megawati has a chance to make
a synthesis that is exactly right and that can bring the nation
out of crisis.