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Editorial & Opinion 

      EDITORIAL: One dictator
      down, others will follow

      Suharto is known as ''Bapak
      Pembangunan'' (Father of Development).
      Indonesia's new leader Jusuf Habibie,
      apparently, covets the title ''Bapak
      Reformasi'' (Father of Reform). Critics,
      however, are not so sure he deserves it.
      After all, he belongs to Suharto's old-order
      regime. And at best he is simply a
      caretaker president until the military finds
      somebody to replace him. 

      Indeed, it is going to be hard for Habibie to
      confound the skeptics. In a country where
      the leader is traditionally from the majority
      Javanese community, Habibie is from
      far-flung Sulawesi. Furthermore, as a
      technocrat, he has never been a military
      man. In addtion, when he was minister for
      research and technology Habibie bought
      dozens of destroyers from the defunct East
      German Navy, a decision which infuriated
      the military -- most of the ships were in such
      poor condition that they had to be towed
      from Europe. 

      To compound his problems, the swift move
      by military chief Wiranto to sideline his
      rivals in the wake of Suharto's resignation
      did not bode well for the new president.
      Wiranto is now unquestionably the real
      power behind the throne. 

      With the military snapping at his heels,
      unemployment topping 10 million and food
      shortages looming, Habibie is not likely to
      last long. But whatever the future, Indonesia
      will never go back to the dark days of a
      Suharto dictatorship -- the democracy
      genie has crawled out of the bottle. Last
      week's downfall of Suharto has clearly
      changed the political landscape of not just
      Indonesia but the rest of Southeast Asia. 

      The end of one of Asean's founding fathers
      now leaves Malaysian Prime Minister
      Mahathir Mohamad as the longest-ruling
      leader in the region. Mahathir, a staunch
      supporter of Suharto, had just two weeks
      ago blamed foreigners for trying to oust
      both himself and Suharto. Now he is forced
      to eat his words and acknowledge that
      there is indeed a genuine pro-democracy
      movement in Indonesia. 

      With key Asean countries such as Thailand,
      the Philippines and now Indonesia, having
      new leaders, Mahathir will be a very lonely
      man. As Malaysia's longest-serving prime
      minister -- 17 years in all -- Mahathir will
      come under growing pressure to step
      down. Already some are comparing his rule
      to the cronyism, nepotism and corruption
      that has characterised Indonesia. Only
      recently, his son's ailing business empire
      was bailed out by a state-owned

      But of all the dictators nervously watching
      for fallout from the Indonesian crisis,
      Burma's military junta should be feeling a
      shiver run down its spine. It hopes to
      guarantee itself a permanent role in the
      country's political future with a constitution
      based on the Indonesian model, which
      gives the military responsibilities for both
      defence and development. But of more
      significance, however, is the likelihood of
      Burmese students taking the lead from their
      Indonesian colleagues and once again
      challenging the junta. All Burmese
      universities have been closed since 1996,
      but the junta realises that it cannot continue
      to deny education to a whole generation of

      Perhaps, too, Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei, one
      of the richest men in the world, may be
      thinking twice about absolute monarchy
      since his father killed democracy in 1962
      when he suspended the constitution.
      Bolkiah has been at the centre of a slew of
      sex scandals. In March, former Miss USA
      Shannon Marketic, who claims she was
      held against her will at Bolkiah's palace,
      filed another lawsuit against the sultan to
      follow an earlier suit which was thrown out
      of a US court after Bolkiah successfully
      argued for sovereign immunity. A separate
      suit by a disgruntled business partner in
      London against Bolkiah's brother Prince
      Jefri, which claimed that he used the
      sultanate-owned Dorchester Hotel to keep
      a ''harem'' of prostitutes, was eventually
      settled out of court. Such salacious
      scandals are not taken lightly in Islamic

      So last week's ouster of Suharto, while not
      quite a real change of government in
      Indonesia, nevertheless represents the
      beginning of a new era. It proves also the
      unceasing yearning of the people in
      Southeast Asia, and elsewhere, for
      democracy. But political democracy alone
      can never guarantee prosperity for all. For
      that, leaders will have to ensure that the
      poor majority be given their fair share of the
      nation's wealth. This is especially true in a
      region where wide disparity remains
      despite breathtaking growth over the past
      decade and where the destitute are
      bearing the brunt of the current economic

      Now that Southeast Asia has made great
      strides in political democracy, perhaps the
      same must be done with economic

      The Nation