Indonesia: December 18, 1999


President Wahid has proposed dealing with the separatist movements (particularly the one in Aceh, but there are others) by turning Indonesia into a loose federal union. This plan is opposed by his Vice President (Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of the former President Sukarno, who founded Indonesia as a unified state) and by the military, which favors a continued strong central government. Virtually all of the old government faction led by Suharto and Habibie also favor a strong central government, as otherwise they would lose the wealth they have accumulated. Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said that a federal system was the first step toward "uncontrolled separatism". Wahid is supported by his former rival, Moslem leader Amien Rais. Wahid's cabinet is bitterly divided over the issue of what Indonesia will look like in the next century, and it is difficult to see how anything can be accomplished by such a divided team.--Stephen V Cole

December 18; Violence continues in Aceh, with a missing man found dead. In other incidents, two were killed and two injured.

December 17; A few dozen weapons were handed over by East Timor militiamen in West Timor. But thousands of weapons remain in the hands of anti-independence militiamen. So far, only 116 weapons have been turned in. In Ache, soldier and police, furious over the death of one of their own, burned dozens of buildings.

December 16; Indonesian military chief Admiral Widodo told parliament on 8 Dec that he had been given orders to protect seven vital government facilities in Aceh, but lacked the troops to do so. The seven facilities were not named, but analysts believe one is the huge Arun gas field, operated by the US corporation Mobil. The US ambassador has reportedly pressured the government to protect the Arun fields, which are only a few miles from Lhokseumawe, one of the strongholds of the Free Aceh rebels (a Moslem separatist group).--Stephen V Cole

December 15; Juwono Sudarsono, the first civilian to be Defense Minister of Indonesia in 45 years, has announced that top former generals will not face trial for the murders, rapes, torture, and other atrocities committed by their troops during three decades of authoritarian rule. Those soldiers who actually committed such acts will face individual prosecutions, but these will be lower-ranking men without political connections. There is still fear of a military coup if the Army is pushed too hard.--Stephen V Cole

December 14; Joni Marques, a commander of one of the East Timor anti-separatist militias admitted that the militias were taking orders from the Indonesian army. Meanwhile, religious violence continued in the Maluku islands, with three more dead and four injured.

December 13; In separatist Aceh province, with four policemen injured.

December 12; Violence in Aceh left two dead and three wounded in several incidents.




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