ad info


Asiaweek TIMEASIA.com CNN.com
 > magazine
 home
 intelligence
 web features
 magazine archive
 technology
 newsmap
 customer service
 subscribe
 TIMEASIA.COM
 CNN.COM
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia
  australasia
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 SHOWBIZ
 ASIA WEATHER
 ASIA TRAVEL

Other News
TIME.com
TIME Europe
FORTUNE.com
FORTUNE China
MONEY.com
Asiaweek Services
Contact Asiaweek
About Asiaweek
Media Kit
Get up to 3 months of Asiaweek free when you subscribe online!


SEPTEMBER 8 , 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 35 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK


Anastasia Vrachnos-Sipa.
But Megawati could well be waiting for Wahid to fall.

The Season of Scandal
Just how much trouble is the president in?
By JOSE MANUEL Tesoro and DEWI LOVEARD Jakarta

Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri's sunny smiles at the Aug. 26 induction of Indonesia's new cabinet made it seem as if the past three days had never happened. It was easy to forget that she had been absent at the Aug. 23 announcement of the line-up, furious because President Abdurrahman Wahid, despite a public promise to share power with her, had shut her trusted aides and party members out of it. Her grin quashed the rumors, which had rocked the rupiah and the stock market, that she might resign to show her anger. And if she felt any misgivings about Wahid's Aug. 25 presidential decree, which puts her in charge of managing a cabinet not of her choosing, her beaming face gave no sign of it.

Despite Wahid's treatment of her, Megawati has apparently decided to stick with him. "Who says I want to resign? I am staying where I am," she told gathered journalists. It certainly had not looked that way the evening of the cabinet announcement, when Megawati had been in such a hurry to leave the palace that she drove herself home to her private residence. (It was the second time Megawati had left Wahid in anger. The first was in October 1999, when the wily, half-blind Muslim cleric pipped Megawati, leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle or PDI-P, in the race for the presidency despite appearing to back her.) A friend quotes her as saying after the cabinet debacle: "I feel betrayed by the person I protected. Again, he cheated me at the last minute."

So why the change of heart? Well, Megawati is a politician. As are most of the 500 members of the Indonesian parliament, or DPR, which on Aug. 28 voted overwhelmingly to use its right of investigation to uncover the truth behind two Wahid-linked scandals. Wahid's willingness to flaunt political convention has often served him well. But now perhaps enough of Indonesia's elite have been burned to jeaopardize Wahid's survival as president. So while Sukarno's daughter is at the president's side, and the DPR politicians against him, both may actually share the same eventual goal — to find a way, somehow, to a future without the stubborn president.

How stubborn is evident in his cabinet choices. First, he sidelined everyone from the PDI-P and its newfound ally, ex-ruling party Golkar, which together dominate parliament after having won over half the popular vote in the June 1999 parliamentary elections. Then the president appointed to the key post of finance minister his friend Priyadi Praptosuharjo, a lightning rod for scandal. Priyadi had already flunked the central bank's "fit and proper test" when he was proposed earlier this year to lead Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), a state institution. Wahid's defense of his choice of Priyadi: "I've known him for 16 years."

At BRI, Priyadi, who does not have a degree in finance but in fisheries, had been considered too lax in disbursing credit, especially to large corporations, at favorable interest rates and often in the absence of adequate collateral. Among the borrowers was the textile-and-machinery concern Texmaco, which now owes some $2 billion to the government. "Almost all of the funds he channeled got stuck and could have bankrupted BRI," says ex-BRI manager Martono, who last year exposed hundreds of millions of dollars lost in loans to large companies by BRI, which is supposed to focus on small- to medium-size businesses and ordinary depositors.

Soon, the president may be too preoccupied with protecting himself to defend his ministerial choices. The DPR plans to spend the next two months investigating a $4-million swindle by Wahid's masseur Suwondo of the onetime state food monopoly, as well as the $2-million Wahid "gift" he said he received from the Sultan of Brunei but had not reported to the government. Wahid, also known as Gus Dur, and his aides are already busy fending off a sordid story in local media that alleged he had an extramarital affair while still chair of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama.

Those are just Wahid's political problems. Later this year, he has to face the potentially explosive implementation of fuel subsidy reductions. His cabinet must format the first budget under expanded regional autonomy, which is expected to reduce central government income from the resource-rich provinces, and fulfill expectations of economic recovery. His defense establishment must control the continuing violence in eastern Indonesia and declining law and order. Says Teten Masduki of Indonesia Corruption Watch: "I don't think he can handle this."

Little surprise then that Megawati has chosen to bide her time. Insiders in her office say she has opened discussions with former armed forces chief Wiranto, another Wahid rival, while planning her own government should Wahid's collapse under a mountain of controversy and failure. "Just let Gus Dur keep going as he is and we will see where we stand in three months' time," says an MP close to the vice president. "We do not believe his style will change, and that means she will become the next president." No matter how many vultures circle the president, the unpredictable Wahid may remain his own worst enemy.

Write to Asiaweek at mail@web.asiaweek.com

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek.com Home

AsiaNow


Quick Scroll: More stories from Asiaweek, TIME and CNN

   LATEST HEADLINES:

WASHINGTON
U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

MANILA
Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

ALLAHABAD
Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

COLOMBO
Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

TOKYO
Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

BANGKOK
Thai party announces first coalition partner



TIME:

COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state



ASIAWEEK:

COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness


Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
 Search
  ASIAWEEK'S LATEST
Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?


  THIS EDITION

COVER: Faster, Higher, Stronger . . . Richer
Money interests are set to compete against pure amateurism at the Sydney Olympics

MEDAL PROSPECTS BY NATION: Taiwan | South Korea | Japan | Singapore | Hong Kong | Indonesia | Malaysia | China | Thailand | Philippines


Net Olympics: A prudent IOC bans webcasts, disappoints fans

THE NATIONS
Myanmar: The regime's real nightmare — Yangon's disgruntled "young-Turk" officers

Indonesia: Wahid, Megawati and the new cabinet

Philippines: How the big ransom money will change little Jolo

Malaysia: The pressure on PM Mahathir continues to grow

Hong Kong: A political scandal grips the public ahead of the Special Administrative Region's Legco election
Pollgate: Did Chief Executive Tung interfere or not? Newsmakers: Lee Kuan Yew tells it how it is

Viewpoint: Hugs, smiles only start Korea's peace process

ARTS AND SCIENCES
People: The starlet and the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas

Cinema: Cameras turn on Chinese film's maverick Aussie

Music: Family ties that are a hit in Vietnam

Books: Life and political upheaval along the mighty Mekong

BUSINESS
Hutchison: Li Ka-shing stays ahead of the telecom crowd

Investing: A window of opportunity for Asian bonds

Business Buzz: The value of planning ahead

TECHNOLOGY
Computing: Can Linux defeat Windows in Asia?

The Net: India tries to solve its telecom plumbing puzzle

Cutting Edge: Nintendo gets back in the game


EDITORIALS
Heritage: Why Asia should save its architectural past

Guns: The Philippines needs to curb its loose firearms

Letters & Comment: The Best — and other opinions

STATISTICS
The Bottom Line: Asiaweek's ranking of world economies


Back to the top   © 2000 Asiaweek. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.