Is President Suharto preparing to resign?
Rais speaks to student demonstrators gathered at the
Indonesian leader silent as pressure mounts
May 20, 1998
Web posted at: 8:17 p.m. EDT (0017 GMT)
JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- As pressure continued to build on Indonesian President Suharto to resign, a key opposition
politician said he was informed by a government source that
the leader will announce his departure on Thursday.
"This is what I heard. I could be misled by this news, you
know, but I believe Suharto's days are numbered," opposition
leader Amien Rais said. "I think he is counting his days."
"I think the nation will be happy, will be relieved, because
Suharto is the problem. So by getting rid of him, I think the
nation ... will feel, you know, gratified, satisfied, happy,"
Rais said. "From then on, we can talk about economic reforms,
It was not immediately clear how good Rais' information might
be. The embattled president remained silent Wednesday. In a
nationwide address Tuesday, he said he would call new
elections for president and would not be a candidate, but he
did not say when the voting would take place.
Kompas newspaper also reported it was likely Suharto would
step down Thursday, after announcing a new Cabinet to reform
Indonesia's political system and setting up a transitional
government headed by Vice President Bacharuddin Jusuf
Kompas reported that as many as 11 Cabinet ministers already
had tendered their resignations.
Earlier, lawmakers from Suharto's own Golkar Party called on
him to submit his resignation to a proposed special assembly
on June 8. Golkar dominates the 500-member parliament.
Speaker sets Friday deadline
In a dramatic turn Wednesday, the speaker of the Indonesian
parliament, Harmoko, said if Suharto does not step down by
Friday, he will convene the People's Consultative Assembly,
which has the power to name a new president and vice
Harmoko met with student protesters Wednesday, throwing his
support behind their effort to force Suharto from power.
Students who attended the meeting told CNN that Harmoko would
call the assembly session for Monday if Suharto refuses to
Under the Indonesian constitution, only the president and the
speaker of parliament can call the consultative assembly into
session. Picking a new president and vice president is a
process that would take about 10 days to complete.
However, it remains unclear how such a move might be received
by Indonesia's military leaders, who so far have continued to
Student protesters occupy the marble parliament
buildings Wednesday for a third day
Fears of crackdown scuttle giant protest
A protest planned Wednesday in the capital of Jakarta, which
was expected to draw up to 1 million people, was called off
because of fears of a military crackdown. However, an
estimated 10,000 students lined the rooftop and grounds of
the parliament building, chanting and waving banners calling
for Suharto to go.
Students danced in the main assembly hall, where
parliamentary legislators had routinely rubber-stamped laws
for Suharto. Some broke into offices, folding official papers
into paper airplanes and sailing them off balconies.
Students said prayers over Suharto's effigy before symbolically hanging the only president their generation has
In a behind-the-scenes deal, the military, which moved troops
-- allegedly with orders to shoot -- into the center of
Jakarta and set up barriers, agreed to leave the students
alone as long as they stayed on the parliament grounds and
off the streets.
The students have vowed to continue to occupy the parliament
compound until Suharto leaves.
Anti-Suharto protests also erupted in at least six other
cities and towns. In Suharto's hometown of Yoygakarta, police
estimated the turnout at 250,000. Some witnesses claimed the
actual crowd was twice the official estimate.
Protests in Indonesia have grown angrier and bolder in the
past week. And as pandemonium replaced politics, some sober
student officials have begun to worry about a backlash by the
"We do not want to provoke a frontal confrontation between
the students and the military because if that happens, the
whole society loses because it would only lead to more
anarchical violence," said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a political
Others, however, were more defiant.
"I'm not worried that the army will crack down," said one
protester. "We are not afraid."
"We are going to stay here until Suharto goes," said
protester Airino Thamrin.
Correspondents Mike Chinoy and Maria Ressa contributed to