Subject: SCMP: Passing of 'fascist' security bill will secure army role
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 12:40:30 -0400

South China Morning Post Thursday, September 23, 1999


Passing of 'fascist' security bill will secure army role


A controversial, military-sponsored security bill is expected to be become law today in one of the final acts of Indonesia's Suharto-era Parliament. The bill is sponsored by armed forces chief General Wiranto and his faction.

Despite growing opposition, it has reached the final plenary session, an indication of the military's firm intention to remain central to political life.

Yesterday, more than 1,500 protesters scuffled outside Parliament with police, who fired tear-gas and waded into the crowd. Dozens of protesters were injured and soldiers were called in.

"If Parliament passes this bill, our country will be fascist," one protester shouted to the crowd, made up mostly of students, some armed with iron bars and rattan sticks.

In Surabaya, police moved in to break up a protest by about 500 students, injuring 19 students. More protests are expected today.

If passed, the law would allow the military to impose emergency rule where it sees fit. It leaves unclear the issue of whether parliamentary approval would be needed.

Such emergency rule would allow for draconian search and seizure powers, curfews, media blackouts and arbitrary arrests.

The bill has provoked outrage among students, reformists and opposition politicians. But some deputies in Parliament appear ready to use their last 24 hours in office to garner either payments or other rewards from military sponsors.

Opposition factions say the bill would wipe out most of the civil liberties regained since the fall of former president Suharto.

"This bill was first drafted 10 years ago, so you can imagine how drastic and authoritarian it would be," said Fajrul Falaakh, a chairman of the Nadhlatul Ulama Muslim organisation.

The ability of the armed forces to bring the security bill so far forward sends a dark message about the state of the reform movement.

Any assertion of outright military rule would face strong opposition across the political spectrum, yet still the military must be accommodated.

"You need at least a working relationship with this military, whether you like it or not," a Western analyst said.

This prominence of the military in politics is heightened by the failure of the armed forces to prevent international peacekeepers in East Timor.

"You cannot force this military into a corner, it's too dangerous," the analyst said.

This fear, of an embattled and humiliated army lashing out, is growing, especially as the international community demands an accounting of the corpses in East Timor and the holding of trials of those Indonesian generals and militia leaders deemed responsible.

Regardless, or because of, the international condemnation of the military, it is clear the generals want to assert their perceived right to an important role in choosing a president and maintaining him or her in power. The security bill is one part of their insurance policy, designed to guard their pivotal place in defending national order and stability.

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