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Editorial & Opinion 

      EDITORIAL: Indonesians
      deserve genuine

      It was the riots in 1966 which severely
      undermined former president Sukarno and
      helped catapult Suharto to power, and it
      was last week's riots that sealed Suharto's
      fate. On Sunday influential Muslim leader
      Amien Rais predicted that Suharto would
      last no more than ''several weeks'', but that
      was not to be. Monday, in a surprising
      move, Parliamentary Speaker Harmoko,
      the number-three man in the Indonesian
      leadership, urged Suharto to resign. 

      No doubt, whether Suharto decides to slog
      it out or give in, his days are as good as
      over. It is not a matter of if, but when and
      how. If he were to dig in, more bloodshed
      might be expected, but eventually he will
      have little choice but to accede to the
      wishes of the people and bow out. 

      So it appears that his three-decade-old
      New Order regime is at last coming to an
      end. Yet is it? 

      With number-two man in the embattled
      leadership Jusuf Habibie expected to take
      over the trappings of power from his
      mentor, nothing much has truly changed.
      The power structures which propped up the
      repressive Suharto regime are left
      untouched. The cronies who have enriched
      themselves at the expense of the people
      remain, and so does the powerful military,
      the arbiter of Indonesian politics.
      Pro-democracy figures such as Rais and
      Megawati Sukarnoputri are still very much
      out in the cold, just as before. 

      Over the past few weeks, the movement to
      oust Suharto has often been compared to
      the 1986 ''People's Power'' that overthrew
      Philippines Ferdinand Marcos, but
      Indonesia may not follow the path of its
      neighbour, in which Marcos' end was swiftly
      followed by a new constitution and fully
      blown democracy. Instead Indonesia could
      head the way of Burma, with Suharto asked
      to step aside, much like former Burmese
      strongman Ne Win, replaced by his own
      men and continuing to wield power from his
      modest bungalow in Jalan Cendana. 

      Apparently Suharto has stipulated a
      number of conditions for his resignation:
      they are said to include keeping the unity of
      the armed forces, a continuation of his
      development policies, maintenance of law
      and order and the adherence to the
      constitutional process. Yet read between
      the lines: they mean an assurance that his
      family's interests will be protected, that he
      will not be persecuted the way South
      Korean former presidents were and that no
      major changes be made to his brand of
      crony capitalism, which is why this switch at
      the top is more a palace coup than a
      manifestation of people's power. 

      The resignation of Suharto might well
      appease some Indonesians -- that is what
      his cronies and the military are counting on
      -- but the students, having tasted power in
      determining the course of the country these
      past weeks, may not settle for the
      continuation of a Suharto-type regime, and
      how they respond to this week's
      development will determine whether
      Indonesia is to emerge from this crisis as a
      fully democratic nation. 

      The reaction from the international
      community will be just as important. The
      world should treat this changing of the
      guard in Indonesia as it did the self-coup of
      the Burmese military junta in 1988. We
      should demand, and the Indonesians
      deserve, no less than genuine democracy. 

      The latest crisis in Indonesia has lessons
      for everyone. Suharto now knows that ''the
      people no longer trust'' him to deliver
      economic prosperity, and the International
      Monetary Fund officials who fled with
      thousands others from last week's mayhem
      might well take time out to ponder on their
      prescriptions for Indonesia. 

      If they think that their austerity measures
      would help stabilise Indonesia, they are
      dead wrong. They do not need feisty
      Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir
      Mohamad to tell them that: anyone could
      have told them that forcing price hikes
      would be suicidal. But no: there must be no
      deviation from the IMF's free-market
      dogmatism. After all, fuel and electricity
      costs in Indonesia must reflect world prices.
      Never mind that millions of people cannot
      afford the 70-per-cent increase. 

      The result of this folly was an orgy of
      plunder, pillage and arson, claiming the
      lives of up to 500 people. The economy, the
      stock market and the rupiah have all but
      collapsed. That the IMF has escaped
      criticism is simply because there is a
      greater evil in Indonesia: Suharto, his family
      and his friends. 

      Yet for those who clamour for an end to the
      Suharto regime, the IMF austerity
      measures, weird that it might seem, came
      as a blessing in disguise. Indeed the IMF's
      once-size-fits-all economic orthodoxy, far
      from always bringing stability, sometimes
      spurs revolution. Then again, perhaps that
      is the only piece of good news for the
      Indonesians this year.