Pro-Suharto forces 'hinder reform bid'
January 27, 1999

The Straits Times

Paul Jacob

Muslim leader Amien Rais also chides Abri chief Wiranto for not dealing with military elements he believes are responsible for the current unrest

MUSLIM reformist leader Amien Rais yesterday pointed an accusing finger at "pro-status quo forces", led by the Suharto family and loyalists, for blocking the reform process in the country in a bid to bring the former president back as a political force.

He also chided armed forces (Abri) chief General Wiranto for failing to act against military elements whom he believed fermented the on-going unrest, and said provocateurs were at work to pave the way for a military takeover.

Describing the political situation as "volatile and disheartening", he said Dr B.J. Habibie's "weak and inefficient" government was unable to preside over a return to stability.

"Recent riots show there is an increasing tendency of breakdown of authority and law and order.

"It is a gloomy development because some people do not believe in the government... The image of Abri and the police is very, very bad," Dr Amien said in Singapore at a talk organised by the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies.

"A kind of crime against humanity and even genocide is taking place with increasing frequency and it seems that in my country, the souls of human beings have become very, very cheap."

He spoke as President Habibie yesterday ordered an investigation into allegations that provocateurs instigated nationwide unrest -- most recently in Ambon where Muslims and Christians clashed.

There were also fresh disclosures that at least 40 Christians were now missing and presumed dead in Telagakodok, just north of Ambon.

Other reports say that hundreds of people are sheltering in Ambon's mosques and churches following last week's clashes which resulted in 50 deaths -- the worst religious violence in Indonesia in at least 15 years.

Religious leaders also pressed General Wiranto to expose the masterminds behind the violence -- whom they say are known to the military.

Dr Amien, who was in Singapore enroute to Davos to attend the World Economic Forum, chairs the newly-formed National Mandate Party (PAN), whose supporters yesterday marched on Parliament in Jakarta to demand free and fair polls in June as legislators were meeting to finalise election laws.

In his wide-ranging talk and in replies to questions, Dr Amien rejected Gen Wiranto's disclosures that a group linked to the ruling Golkar -- the Permuda Pancasila -- could be behind the sectarian violence and unrest. "Those who commit such atrocities and crimes are well-trained, well-organised, well-financed, well-engineered. So they must be people from certain circles of the power structure in Indonesia.

"By saying that, Wiranto knew who I meant," he said in a reference to the Suharto family and their loyalists. He claimed that pro-Suharto forces within society remained influential and wealthy and the former leader was "fighting back in order to come back to the political scene".

Mr Suharto was doing so "not to become president, but to protect the economic imperium of his children and to guarantee that his family's vested interests are safe", he added.

They also were stymieing the hopes of the reform process which began with Mr Suharto's ouster last May.

"I often say that the power pyramid left behind by Suharto is very much the same, intact. Only the top of the pyramid was chopped off. But the whole body -- the bureaucracy, armed forces, Attorney-General's Office, Golkar, cronies -- are still the same," he said. The forces for status quo have worked to make some reformist leaders take a compromise position -- including to adopt a "lenient" attitude towards excesses of the New Order government, and to suggest that Mr Suharto should now be involved in efforts to bring stability to the country.

Rejecting this, he said political players -- and the military -- should make a clear stand: whether they wanted to protect the interests of Mr Suharto and his family, or to fight for the interests of the nation and people.