Fri, 15 Sep 2000

Possibility of disintegration

It would appear, quite ominously, that history could well repeat itself in Indonesia.

Although decentralization, devolution and autonomy may enhance the cause of democracy in many other countries, in Indonesia it may do quite the opposite.

While calls for independence in Aceh, Riau and West Papua and for unification in Sulewesi, in some cases, may be genuine and express the wish of the majority, in others they may be simply expressing the wishes of a covetous and exploitative elite.

It appears that there are some regents and military factions who are determined to gain financially by conspiring to exploit the motion towards fragmentation in the country.

Without the knowledge and approval of the central government, deals are already in the process of being struck between Indonesian and foreign companies on the one hand and regents and certain military factions on the other. In this way, alternative, unelected administrations, albeit provincial ones, are haphazardly emerging to fill the vacuum left by a rather weak and irresolute, central government.

A similar process occurred in Indonesia in the 1960s when several large American companies reached agreements and entered into contracts with Soeharto's cronies and the military faction. This ultimately led to the CIA backed coup of 1965 and rule by a despotic regime for three decades thereafter.

This time the CIA is probably not involved and the outcome is unlikely to be a unified Indonesia under a military government; instead Indonesia could very possibly fragment under a whole variety of avaricious despots.

To prevent this the government must firmly and before it is too late, take steps to prohibit involvement by the military in any business activities, ensure the loyalty of the entire military to the central administration, carefully plan any devolution so that power devolves to democratically elected provincial assemblies and declare illegal and void all ultra vires contracts made between officials and businesses.