There's a question of etiquette to be faced when a dictator dies.
Respect for the dead? I don't think so, not when he'd lost any respect whilst still alive. But a week of national mourning has been declared and government buildings are flying the red and white at half mast. But very few flags can be seen elsewhere. When I've asked Indonesians if today shouldn't have been a day off for the funeral, all have told me that it wasn't appropriate ~ but if it had been SBY (or presumably whoever occupied the presidential palace) ....
So, should we be dancing in the streets? Probably not, but early this morning the main thoroughfares from the family residence in Jl.Cendana (hence the soubriquet Cendana Clan) to Halim airport, from where the cortège would depart for Solo, were lined with expectant crowds. 'Er Indoors tells me that there was an acceptance that Suharto is dead, but most wanted to witness the distress of the family members.
Perhaps they thought that the tears of the eldest daughter, Tutut, which we all witnessed yesterday as she gave a statement at Pertamina Hospital, were but crocodile tears. Or perhaps, it has been suggested, they were because she is aware of pending retribution, a topic dwelt on at length by a number of TV stations.
There are a number of indicators which suggest that this is so. For instance, the Vice President, Yusuf Kalla, believes that this country isn't really ready for democracy because economic stability is a priority."It is not surprising to see people elect figures who can maintain discipline and stability. Thus, the chance for those with a military background could be bigger," Kalla was quoted as saying Wednesday in Mecca, where he was on a minor haj pilgrimage.
That is a pure Suhartoism.
What I find troubling is that it is echoed by the Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Djoko Santoso who, last Thursday, said that recent election disputes which turned violent in some regions served notice that the nation was not prepared for democracy.
According to the Jakarta Post
, he was referring to ongoing disputes between supporters of candidates in the elections for governor and deputy governor in South Sulawesi and North Maluku. The election disputes have dragged on, despite the Supreme Court's intervention.
While acknowledging that the political implications of the disputes should not concern the military, Djoko said the TNI bore the responsibility to restore peace.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has appointed Army chief operational assistant Maj. Gen. Tanribali Lamo as interim governor of South Sulawesi, a move which pro-democracy activists say signals a return of the military to practical politics.
Tanribali retired from the military just before his induction as interim governor, a position that will require him to restore peace and reconcile the conflicting camps.
A number of retired military generals are also eying gubernatorial or deputy gubernatorial posts in several future regional elections, reminiscent of the New Order period which saw military officers hold key civilian posts.
One is tempted to ask if this is collusion. After all, the Kalla clan hails from South Sulawesi, the base of their business empire, an empire which in order to thrive needed the nod and wink from Cendana.
Before heading down the conspiracy route, it is worth noting that the case of the assassinated human rights activist, Munir Said Thalib, may be reaching some kind of closure.
Pay attention at the back there and follow this, if you can.
The Supreme Court has sentenced former Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto to 20 years for the "premeditated murder of Munir
". This is, of course, the same Supreme Court which last year quashed a previous conviction of 14 years following a trial at the Central Jakarta District Court, a conviction subsequently up held by the Jakarta High Court, but sentenced Pollycarpus to two years on charges of document forgery.
The document charges referred to him having arranged to be on the same flight as Munir from Jakarta to Singapore where Munir was poisoned with arsenic.
Justice Djoko Sarwoko described Pollycarpus as the "main actor in the crime", except it is now common knowledge that he acted in conjunction with officials of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN).The police are now ready to question these officials, assuming they are still in this country - a big if.
There is also an element of compassion involved. Because Pollycarpus is in shock at his unexpected re-incarceration, the police will wait for him to readjust to his new-ish surroundings in Cipinang prison.
Back in the Suharto era, the police would not have been so compassionate. Pollycarpus would not have even been tried and Munir would have been just another victim.
Mixed signals and weird times indeed.