Mon, 18 Sep 2000

Government warned of dangers of drugs, unemployment

JAKARTA (JP): Indonesia will remain in a "stateless-like condition" due to stagnant reforms in all fields, political observers and activists say.

John N. Palingi, a socioeconomic observer, expressed deep concern over complicated issues that could threaten national unity unless they are solved properly.

He said the problem was exacerbated further by increasing drug addiction among the younger generation and high unemployment, which were two crucial problems that had yet to get serious attention from the government.

"The unemployment rate reaching around 38 million is a difficult problem to solve amid the economic crisis, while it has had a serious economic impact on the jobless and their families.

"The nation could also face a lost generation in the future because of the prevalent consumption of illegal drugs among youths and students," he said at a seminar on nationalism organized by the Indonesian Nationalist Students Movement (GMNI) here on Saturday.

John said the government's credibility and legitimacy was also in question following its failure to enforce the law and maintain security and order.

"(Meanwhile) President Abdurrahman Wahid's government is facing a difficult test with many scandals, and is also challenged by the return of supporters of the New Order regime," he said.

On the economic side, the government's IMF-sponsored economic programs have yet to bear fruit while Indonesia's foreign debt has reached Rp 1,620 trillion, he added.

"People's purchasing power will remain weak while the unemployment problem will deteriorate if the government goes ahead with its plan to increase fuel prices next month," he warned.

Rocky Gerung, a political observer from the University of Indonesia, said the stateless-like condition had a lot to do with the nation's failure to introduce reform in all fields.

"So far, the military has yet to retreat from the political arena and it still plays a dominant role in local politics with the presence of regional military commands and districts in provinces and of soldiers in rural areas," he said.

He said civilian supremacy should be upheld while the military should return into its defense function and the National Police should be encouraged to handle security affairs.

He said civilians, especially students and the middle class, had yet to become a force which could take over power from the military.

Marcus Mali, a legislator from the National Justice and Unity faction (FKKI) at the House of Representatives, called on proreform supporters to strengthen their ranks and directly face those who would advocate the return of the New Order regime.

"The people should support the government and law enforcers to try former president Soeharto and his cronies," he said.

Amiruddin, an activist from the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), emphasized the importance of promoting strong nationalism among all components of the nation to force total reform in all fields.

"We must fight against xenophobia and chauvinistic nationalism that could lead to authoritarianism. Security and order at home must be restored, corruption must be fought and the law must be respected," he said.

He added that economic development should be oriented to empower small and medium-sized companies operating in rural areas to help better people's welfare. (rms)