Military generals and figures linked to the regime of former dictator Suharto have done well in the first cabinet of newly-elected President Megawati Sukarnoputri, which was announced on August 9.
In a signal move, Sukarnoputri has appointed Lieutenant-General Hendropriyono as the new head of BAKIN, the state intelligence agency, a post which has cabinet minister status.
A former head of the domestic affairs division of Military Intelligence, General Hendropriyono has been one of the most ambitious intelligence officers. With long experience in the commando Kopassus forces' repressive operations in various parts of Indonesia, he pioneered the technique of forming and using so-called civilian militia.
The general also personally commanded a military attack on farmers struggling for land in Lampung, South Sumatra in 1987, during which more than 200 unarmed villagers were massacred.
Hendropriyono's ambition brought him into conflict with Suharto when, in 1993, he refused to suppress one of the early congresses of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) that was supporting Sukarnoputri as party chairperson. He was later retired from the military.
He has maintained contact with Sukarnoputri ever since, even though he later took a cabinet position, as minister for transmigration, in the government of BJ Habibie, which followed Suharto's May 1998 resignation.
Overall the military have tightened their hold on the repressive apparatus of the state.
Retired General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono gets back his position as coordinating minister in charge of politics and security, a position he held under ousted President Abdurrahman Wahid until only a few months ago.
Wahid considered him a so-called “reformer” but Yudhoyono increasingly sided with the rightist majority in the parliament against Wahid.
As defence minister, Sukarnoputri has appointed a civilian, Abdul Madjid Matori, the chairperson of the pro-Wahid National Awakening Party who was expelled by that party for siding with the rightists during the last days of President Wahid's rule.
While presenting the image of civilian control over the armed forces, his lack of backing from his own party means he will face the military as a lame duck minister.
Furthermore, with Yudhoyono, the chief of the armed forces, the head of BAKIN and the chief of police all sitting in the cabinet, it is clear that Matori is there as a token civilian.
Sukarnoputri has also reappointed as national police chief General Bimantoro, the general who defied President Wahid's instructions to stop using live ammunition in dispersing demonstrations and later refused to accept Wahid's dismissal of him.
The military has also been awarded the ministry for the interior, which controls all important appointments to the provincial, residency, district and village administrations. Provincial governors report to the minister.
The ministry is the headquarters for the maintenance of the massive and extensive tribute-gathering and social control network that stretches throughout the country.
Sukarnoputri has not yet appointed an attorney-general. There are enormous public expectations that the new attorney-general will continue prosecutions against allegedly corrupt officials, including the president's husband, Taufik Kiemas, and Akbar Tanjung, the head of Suharto's “party of power”, Golkar.
Sukarnoputri has appointed Yusril Mahendra, the leader of the ultra-rightist Muslim Star and Crescent Party and a former Suharto speechwriter, as minister for justice, who is in charge of the appointment of all judges.
Golkar itself is not strongly represented in any of the key political ministries, but has been awarded the potentially lucrative ministry of energy and mineral resources.
Apart from Yusril Mahendra, parties from the right-wing Muslim Central Axis parties have not received influential ministries.
Sukarnoputri's own party, the PDIP, shares key ministries in the economic field with a number of career bureaucrats. They have already confirmed that they will continue to implement all agreements made with the International Monetary Fund.
Overall the cabinet reflects a core alliance between the PDIP, the military and the state technocracy, with other parties, including Golkar, in the second layer of the alliance. Golkar and the Central Axis retain substantial influence in the House of Representatives and the People's Consultative Assembly.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people mobilised in East Java to greet Abdurrahman Wahid on his first visit to the province since his removal from the presidency.
Supporters, mainly peasants and workers, brought placards with slogans such as “Welcome, people's president of Indonesia” and “Welcome, fighter for the constitution”.
Wahid was hosted by a local Islamic school and was accompanied by a large number of senior leaders of the the religious organisation Nahdlatul Ulama and the National Awakening Party.
The pro-Wahid daily newspaper, Duta Masyarakat, reported that the local Christian and Chinese communities also mobilised to support Wahid.
The ousted president addressed the crowds twice, once in the town of Sukarejo and once in the main square in the nearby town of Bondowoso.
On both occasions, Wahid urged people to maintain the struggle for democracy and to demand that the authorities provide justice.
“The Holy Koran teaches patience”, Wahid said. “We don't need to call upon anybody to mobilise violently. We don't need to be angry, we don't need to be hard. What is important is that we remain firm in rejecting evil.”
He also said that officials had to end the practice of arbitrary interpreting the law themselves.
“In our country, it is the usual practice for the apparatus to detain people for allegedly disturbing public order. Public order must be returned to the law and not the arbitrarily decisions of officials”, he said.
Left Weekly Updated Jan 23
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