Movement lacked a leader in the streets'


JAKARTA, Indonesia — Even as students celebrated the resignation of President Suharto Thursday morning, they began calling for an even greater change in the country’s leadership.p. But as successful as the students’ protests have been, it was clear that their movement lacked a leader like Corazon C. Aquino, who inspired a “people power” revolution in the Philippines in 1986 and vanquished Ferdinand E. Marcos by the sheer force of her moral authority.p. Today, instead of naming an opposition leader to take charge, President Suharto stepped down and put in his place B. J. Habibie, his own Vice President and a 61-year-old former aeronautical engineer.p. Habibie was one of the President’s longest-serving Cabinet members and a close prot?g? of Suharto, a wily autocrat who has spent three decades muzzling would-be opponents. And student protesters immediately expressed their dissatisfaction with the new boss.p. “This is one of the biggest problems with Suharto’s 32 years in power,” Umar Juoro, a political analyst at the Center for Information and Development Studies in Jakarta, said on Tuesday, even before Suharto had stepped aside. “He hasn’t given anybody inside or outside the Government the opportunity to develop into a credible leader.”p. To the extent that Indonesia has a main opposition leader, it is Amien Rais, 54, an American-trained political scientist who runs Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization. Rais (pronounced RYE-ess) has won the trust of students as an authentic voice of change.p. The limits of Rais’s power were laid bare on Wednesday when he canceled a huge rally planned for the main square of the capital. For days Rais had promised to put one million people on the streets, drawing on the 28 million members of his Moslem organization, Muhammadiyah. But in the early hours, after the army had mustered its own menacing presence, Rais decided that the potential for violence was too great to go forward.p. The other major opposition figure, Megawati Sukarnoputri, has more in common with Aquino than Rais. Like Aquino, who was married to the beloved politician Benigno Aquino, Ms. Megawati has an emotive tie to her country’s political history. She is the daughter of the first president of Indonesia, Sukarno, whom Suharto ousted in1966.p. Ms. Megawati, 50, is also a symbol of Suharto’s tactics. In June 1996 she was ousted as head of the Indonesian Democratic Party in a coup engineered by pro-Suharto forces. But she has preached a policy of restraint in opposing the Suharto Government. Ms. Megawati has scarcely been visible in the tumultuous events of the last two weeks, and even her admirers said she might be consigning herself to political irrelevance in the new Indonesia.p. “She has to hurry up and catch her moment in history, and history doesn’t wait around,” said a television commentator, Wimar Witoelar. “She’s a very good person. But then we need a leader today.”p. Opposition leaders in Indonesia operate in a near-total vacuum, because Suharto dominated the political institutions through his ruling Golkar Party and the military, through his hand-picked generals.p. Rais has been able to carve out a role through his religious organization, which provides education and health care to the huge Muslim population. But as he has grown more political, Rais ran afoul of the Government.p. Among students at the Parliament Thursday, there was understanding but palpable disappointment at Rais’s decision to call off the rally. The students are genuinely fond of Rais, a diminutive figure whom people describe as charming and quick-witted. When he arrived on Tuesday to speak to the students, they cheered him.p. But Rais did not galvanize the masses with a 10-minute address that rehashed old themes and contained few rhetorical flourishes. At one point he compared Suharto and his family to the pugilists of the World Wrestling Federation, saying, “When they are on top they don’t like to come down.”p. “I expected Amien Rais to pull his act together and make a strong statement,” said Arin Barus, 21, a social sciences student at the University of Indonesia. “But he didn’t inspire the students.”p. Nevertheless, Rais’s integrity is unquestioned, which is saying a lot for a country used to political leaders who use their positions as a means to build billion-dollar fortunes.p. “He’s got the trust of students,” Witoelar said, “He’s the one man we can trust, and trust is what this is all about.”

TopicID: 204