A big calm and sunny day. Quieter than the quietest bank holiday. Phones ring. Big fat millionaire made it back to Australia. Did niece make it back to Medan? (She did, but with no thanks to him.) Many acquaintances are heading for the hills. Is anywhere safe?
Charlie taught a regular private class this morning. He saw Chinese electrical and electronics stores razed. The housing complex has a barbed wire reinforced barricade. Those under siege are petrified.
Gossip talks of a massive airlift – board now, pay later, but where can we go with rupiah? Am somewhat concerned that no family member has rung from the UK. Sister Sue works for British Airways, so she should know that they’re charging dollars upfront for seats.
Monday May 18th
Prepare to go to the office, but get phone call to say it is shut all week. I go anyway because my bank is next door-ish. I take Our Kid for ‘protection’. The front of our building has a banner saying Pribumi Milik (Owned by indigenous Indonesian.) I don’t let on that the owner is ethnic Chinese from Kalimantan.
In the bank, full of colleagues on a similar quest, I’m near the back of the queue. I ask the cashier if they’ve got Rp.5 million. We check the needs of those behind and, thankfully, the bank has. Just, so I take it ‘in case’.
At home there’s a message from Son No.1 on the ansafone. He’s worried about us, but I can’t contact him as he’s set off on a valedictory tour of the US having finished his studies there. Will he visit mutual friends who, I strongly suspect have cancelled their plans to visit us here? We expected a call from them last Wednesday, but didn’t get one.
One very corrupt Cabinet minister – Abdul Lateif – has quit. As Minister of Tourism his potential income must have been drastically reduced. (Ha, still got a sense of heavy sarcasm ~ another shitty day in paradise.)
‘Er Indoors says that a TV station reports that the army want to arrest Amien Rais (the de facto leader of the People’s Forum). Do that and there’s no way the people will allow it. He’s really pushing and has scared off a few of his fellow forty People’s Forum ~ like Soeharto’s son-in-law*, who says he still seeks reform. The Jakarta Post has consistently, but wisely argued the case for reform. The students are taking to the streets and to the legislative bodies, both national and regional.
The pressure on Soeharto is immense. Will he conveniently die of a heart attack brought on by the stress? Or will he seek a wise, compromising but still publicly acceptable ‘abdication’ and peaceful succession? It will be good for the latter if he opts for the latter. And good if Indonesia wins the Thomas and Uber Cups in men’s and women’s badminton. How can those players concentrate so far from home (in Hong Kong). But they’re still in there winning.
(The men beat Malaysia 3 – 2 in the final and the women lost 4 – 1 to China in their final.)
Two female colleagues (who live a couple of streets away) ring to say they’re heading to Lombok. Good luck, have a nice holiday, but I didn’t tell them that I’ve heard that all flights to Bali have been cancelled. (But why??)
Some cause for optimism: journalists filming Harmoko, leader of the legislative yes-men, broke into spontaneous applause, no doubt breaking professional bounds of impartiality, when he announced that all factions, inc. the army, are asking Soehato to resign.
Phone call from Son No.1; distinct parochial bias in the US press. “Baton Rouge couple evacuated.“
*Can anyone let me know who were the members of the People’s Forum and, in particular, which son-in-law I was writing about?
Tuesday May 19th
Live, in front of ulemas (Muslim religious leaders), Soeharto says it’s premature for him to ‘abdicate’. Give me 20 months, i.e. to the false dawn of the millenium, to carry out reforms, even electoral ones. Will the people let him? Live comments from the ulemas weren’t unanimous ~ one was ‘censored’ – i.e. the sound was cut off !
It’s the waiting within a siege which is wearing. You can get excited, panicky and irrational as you watch smoke plumes, all black, and listen to gunshots which may not be because they don’t sound like they do on TV in crime and cop stories, and you weren’t really watching those reports from Beirut, Bosnia or wherever. But the silence may be worse.
Phone calls: Charlie, my 60 year old ex-Jesuit priest friend with a very witty line in dirty jokes is off to Bali – by executive class bus because it’s comfortable and he likes the scenery. Our numbers decrease and our sense of isolation increases exponentially. An emotional balance is difficult to sustain.
Time for a SuperMie lunch.
Repeated showings before the news finally ~ believably? ~ sinks in. He’s going. Elections will be held for the M.P.R. which will elect a new president and vice-president. He will not be a candidate. He’s in favour of a constitutional succession, supervised by a Reformation Ctte. composed of various public figures – including ulemas, no doubt, and university rectors. So … how long will it take? Much conjecture and TVRI (the state run TV station) shows ulemas saying “Don’t take anything for granted” and “terus, terus” which rhymes with Bruce and translates roughly, as “keep on keeping on”
Common sense will out? The students are still camped out at the MPR building and tomorrow is the 20th ~ scheduled for a People’s March to the Presidential Palace ~ and the 90th anniversary of National Re-awakening. Symbolic or what? Of what, we wait for tommorrow. Will the people believe it when he talks of anti-corruption, anti-monopoly? He’s old, he can afford to give up a quest – if that’s what it was – for temporal wealth. But can he give up his children?
And are they, the children, really in the UK as reported on the net and supposedly confirmed by BA (British Airways)? An interesting question for we Brits: what would you have done if you had found that they were on the same flight as fellow evacuees? Boo’d and hissed? Invited them to jump out the nearest emergency exit? Or asked them to get the drinks in?