JAKARTA, 22 May 1998 -- Clad in a dark suit, Indonesian strongman Suharto made a public appearance of not more than 10 minutes when he declared his resignation yesterday in the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta. The situation inside the palace was a bit chaotic and unusual as many foreign journalists had appeared wearing jeans and sport shirts.
Palace security officers could do nothing but let them in. Following is an unofficial translation of President Suharto's resignation speech moved by Reuters:
My fellow countrymen. I have been following closely the recent developments in the national situation, especially the aspirations of the people for reforms in all aspects of the nation's life. I deeply understand their aspirations and, convinced that reforms should be carried out in an orderly, peaceful and constitutional manner while maintaining the country's unity and carrying forward its development.
Therefore, I had planned to form a reform committee and reshuffle the cabinet. But the facts today show that there has not been sufficient support for the creation of the reform committee and it cannot be formed.
I have concluded that the reform committee is not the best way to carry out the reforms and therefore a cabinet reshuffle is no longer necessary.
In view of this situation, I find it difficult to carry out my duty as the country's ruler and to push ahead with the nation's development. Because of that, based on Article 8 of the 1945 constitution, and having taken into consideration the views of leaders of the House of Representatives and its factions, I have decided to step down from office as the president of Indonesia, effective today, Thursday, May 21, 1998, as I read this statement.
My resignation from the office of the president of the Republic of Indonesia is also conveyed to the leaders of the House of Representatives, who are also the leaders of the People's Consultative Assembly, at a gathering earlier this morning.
As Article 8 of the 1945 constitution lays out, the vice-president, Professor Dr B J Habibie, will carry out the remainder of the presidential term from 1998-2003.
I thank the people for their help and support during my leadership of this country and I beg forgiveness for any mistakes and shortcomings and ask that the people will continue to believe in Pancasila [the state ideology] and the 1945 constitution.
From today, the seventh development cabinet is now a caretaker cabinet and to my ministers, I express my thanks. As the situation does not permit a swearing-in at the House of Representatives, the swearing-in of the Vice President as President will be carried out now to prevent a leadership vacuum in the governing of the country.