Megawati offers a rude goodbye

She rode into office three years ago on a wave of public adoration and high expectations, but as the sun sets on her troubled administration, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri is being publicly derided as “ignorant and spiteful”.

Megawati leaves her palace amid a final photo session
Megawati leaves her palace amid a final photo session

With just two days to go before Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is sworn in as Indonesia’s sixth president, the camera-shy Megawati has yet to concede defeat in the country’s first direct presidential elections.

She is refusing to meet with her successor and now appears unlikely to attend his swearing-in ceremony.

More disturbing for many observers have been the costly and politically troublesome decisions and appointments she has made in the weeks before Wednesday’s official inauguration ceremony.


In a stinging editorial on Friday the normally restrained Jakarta Post newspaper said Indonesians were “dumbfounded” by Megawati’s post-election behaviour, which it went on to describe as “ignorant and spiteful”, and her recent appointments, “malodorous”.

Susilo won more than 61% of the popular vote in the final round of presidential elections on 20 September. The figures were finalised two weeks ago.

Since that time, Susilo’s transition team says it has tried to meet with Megawati on four separate occasions.

Though the president urged Indonesia’s 230 million citizens to accept the results of the elections, she has yet to comment publicly on the results or to officially concede. Now it appears she will not attend the inauguration.

“Neither Ibu Mega or [vice-president] Bapak Hamza will attend the inauguration because there is no regulation requiring the incumbent president and vice-president to attend the event,” said Pramono Anung, deputy secretary-general of Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Foreign guests

Australian Prime Minister John Howard will attend the ceremony

Australian Prime Minister John
Howard will attend the ceremony

The list of foreign heads of state attending the inauguration includes Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri of East Timor. A special envoy is being sent from Japan.

“What an embarrassment, to think her legacy could have been for bringing a degree of stability to Indonesia and steering the country through peaceful elections and instead she’s behaving like a spoiled child who didn’t get her kue (cake),” said one Western diplomat.

In recent weeks Megawati has signed off on legislation guaranteeing her pricy perks in perpetuity, including a $2 million home.

Resignation request

In another move directed squarely at Susilo and his running mate Jusuf Kalla, Megawati asked the House to approve a bill requiring serving cabinet ministers with presidential aspirations to resign their seats six months prior to the beginning of an election campaign.

President-elect retired General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

President-elect retired General
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Both Susilo and Jusuf were Megawati’s coordinating ministers. Susilo, former coordinating minister for political and security affairs, resigned in March, while Jusuf, former coordinating minister for people’s welfare, resigned in April, days before the six-month-long election season began.

Other decisions will carry considerable political baggage for the in-coming president.

Key among these was the move to award top military honours to two Megawati allies over the objections of the current armed forces chief, General Endriartono Sutarto.

She immediately accepted his resignation and promoted the arch-conservative army chief of staff General Ryamizard Ryacudu, who is likely to make Susilo’s pledge to reform the security forces infinitely more difficult.

Spy claim

In the past, General Ryacudu has accused foreign intelligence services of placing 60,000 spies in Indonesia, a number roughly equivalent to every foreign national living in the country.

He famously described as heroes the special forces soldiers sentenced to brief prison terms for the murder of a prominent Papuan activist.

The new regime will also have to contend with the results of a last minute agreement to consolidate all intelligence-gathering authority under the roof of the current head of national intelligence and Megawati confidante Hendropriyono.

Source: Al Jazeera

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