Wed, 28 Jun 2000

What's going on?

Even without the outbreaks of violence, developments in Indonesia have received vivid interest from the media and the Australian public. They seem to be as confused as the Indonesians living here. They could not believe that the Indonesian National Police chief could summon the President of the country to appear on the witness stand of a criminal or civil court while the President himself is the head of the National Police.

Many here see the President as contributing to the confusion and problems faced by Indonesia today. Why should President Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur, spend two months of his seven or eight months in office traveling overseas while the country is in turmoil? Suwondo, the wizard of a masseur who can disappear into thin air with his stolen money, remains fresh in the minds of every Australian interested in Indonesian affairs.

As I am preparing to return home, a writer at an Australian daily has revealed that the President's health has worsened in the last three months. He used to fall asleep more during important meetings.

In a sense, the announcement made by the President putting the riot-torn province of Maluku under a state of civil emergency has been seen as an encouraging development, although perhaps too late to be really effective. But why not a military state of emergency, as the situation calls for urgent and drastic measures, not just half-measures.

There have been suggestions by certain quarters in the province, mostly Christians, to place Maluku under United Nations supervision with the forces of the United States taking part.

It is shameful that a country with such a lofty ideology and supposed way of living under its Constitution has tragically failed to live up to the expectations of the civilized world.

The smallest disturbance, riot or even an act of vandalism is immediately reported by the world press. The impression received by capital investors is, regretfully, still of a chaotic and untrustworthy Indonesia.

Sometimes, I even doubt if prayer is enough to change the situation, if nothing else and nobody else succeeds.


Perth, Australia