Thursday, February 26, 1998

Chinese get Suharto plot blame

Andreas Harsono
The West Australian, February 26, 1998

A RETIRED but prominent Indonesian general has said Chinese tycoons and another retired general were behind an effort to overthrow President Suharto.

Sayidiman Suryohadiprojo, a prominent member of an elite circle of retired senior officers, said that Chinese Roman Catholics were leading a campaign against Mr. Suharto’s vice-presidential choice, B. J. Habibie, because he was a Muslim.

At the University of Indonesia yesterday no action was taken against 1000 students who broke a ban on demonstrations imposed for the preliminaries to the presidential election, which begins this week.

About 100 police and troops were deployed around the university campus as the students rallied to blame the government for the economic crisis.

General Suryohadiprojo said in articles published in the nation’s leading newspapers and biggest magazine that continuing violence against Chinese merchants and residents was part of general resentment against the nation’s wealthiest ethnic group.

He implied that the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies had played crucial role as an advocate for various government policies that he claims harmed Muslims in the 1970s and 1980s.

He wrote that the CSIS had been opposing the “new paradigm in domestic politics,” and had influenced foreign interests that disagreed with the “new line of thinking” in Indonesia.

The articles came after allegations by military authorities against Chinese tycoon Sofyan Wanandi, the spokesman for an association of Chinese-owned corporations, and his brother Jusuf, who heads the CSIS.

The authorities claimed they had found evidence linking the pair with a bomb blast in a Jakarta slum, allegedly part of a student plot against Mr. Suharto.

The brothers denied any links but their long interrogation sent a signal to Muslims that Indonesian Chinese were not patriots. It was an inflammatory message. Amid rising prices and higher cost of living, anti-Chinese riots began to erupt.

The other retired general referred to by General Suryohadiprojo is almost certainly Benny Moerdani, 66, former commander of the armed forces, whom Muslims blame him for the killing of more than 150 Muslim protesters in Tanjung Priok in northern Jakarta in 1984. General Moerdani is a Catholic, a patron of the CSIS and a close friend of the Wanandi brothers. 

General Suryohadiprojo claimed that the international campaign against Dr. Habibie, originated with the CSIS because the vice-president nominee and likely heir to the presidency, was the chairman of the Muslim intellectuals’ group ICMI.

He accused foreign media of carrying out a character assassination of Dr Habibie, and criticised Singaporean statesman Lee Kuan Yew for saying that Dr Habibie might not get the support of the international business community if elected.

Indonesia’s domestic airlines were reported yesterday to be on the verge of collapse of the economic crisis. 

Hadi Soemarto, president of the Indonesian National Air Carriers Association, said the four airlines Bouraq, DAS, Mandala and Sempati earned only rupiah but their main costs were payable in United States dollars. The rupiah has lost more than 70 percent of its value against the dollar.

He said there was no danger of Garuda Indonesia and Merpati airlines collapsing because they were owned by the government.

Environment Minister Sarwono Kusumaatmadja said he would start today to bring rain in an attempt to contain forest fires in eastern Borneo. 

The World-Wide Funds for Nature said that damage caused by Indonesian fires and haze in 1997 had cost the region more than $2 billion. 

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