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We eastern Germans often have different opinions about issues currently being debated. One example: inheritance tax. In many discussions, among the Greens party as well, the focus was placed on family-owned companies, on the advantages for heirs, about the revenues that could be spent on education.

Certainly not a huge fortune. That has consequences. For example, it is harder to take a risk and set up a company, and it means that those who do deserve all the more respect. Is there something the west can learn from the East Germans? We should talk to one another, not just about each other; we should respect one another and be ready to abandon our own viewpoints, both that of the victim and of savior.

If we can better understand each other and judge each other less, we will finally be on track towards true unity.

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Politics Companies Finance Opinion About us. Post Reunification Eastern Germany is different Germany was under the impression it had overcome its Cold War division, but differences between the east and west persist, writes the leader of the Green Party. The wall that still defines. Go to Homepage. Share on Xing. There is growing resentment about corruption in public life and the domination of economic opportunities by a select few.

This is particularly directed against members of President Soeharto's family, most of whom have gained tremendous private wealth from their family connections. With the elevation of the President's daughter to the Cabinet, they appear to be provided with privileged access to political power as well.

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There is also a feeling of exasperation that not only does the ageing President Soeharto show no sign of retiring from his post, but he is also unwilling to even discuss the issue of his successor or how a transition of power might take place. Despite the clear current of subterranean discontent, however, there is little indication of moves within elite elements of Indonesian society to remove President Soeharto or to press strongly for reform.

The beginnings of unrest in the streets and universities of major cities and regional towns have yet to gain sufficient momentum to be anything resembling a significant challenge to the Government. Given the crucial role of the Armed Forces of Indonesia ABRI as the bulwark of the New Order, much recent commentary has focused on the possible actions of ABRI leaders as agents for political change, either to persuade Soeharto to step down or to oust him from power.

It is unlikely, however, that ABRI officers would move against Soeharto unless the economic or political situation were to deteriorate drastically. While most observers consider that most of the ABRI leadership think it is time for Soeharto to step down, they are reluctant to express such a view publicly because of their immense respect for Soeharto's achievements as President and because of their close personal relations with him. Members of the current generation of ABRI leaders were trained and rose to prominence under Soeharto and are personally indebted to his patronage.

The recently appointed Chief of the Armed Forces, General Wiranto, was a personal adjutant to President Soeharto and rose from the rank of colonel to four-star general in four years. Soeharto's son-in-law, Prabowo, was appointed commander of the elite Strategic Reserve. Although there have been periods of disagreement between Soeharto and the Army, notably during the late s and early s, Soeharto has since used his power to appoint ABRI officers to ensure that his own supporters hold the key positions.

This prerogative was exercised again in February when he reshuffled the ABRI leadership to strengthen his closest associates. Soeharto has also skilfully manipulated rivalries amongst the top leaders, creating such factional enmities that it would appear to be difficult for many leading ABRI officers to cooperate with each other in any move against the President.

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Moreover, there is little sign that ABRI leaders have alternatives to the policies being pursued by the President. Most would also be aware that any move by the Army against Soeharto would only weaken international confidence in the Indonesian economy still further. There was widespread concern amongst observers in the international financial community when one of Soeharto's closest confidantes, B.

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Habibie, was made Vice-President. As one of the leading figures associated with the economic nationalist faction of Soeharto's advisers, known for their sponsorship of prestige high-technology projects of questionable economic benefit, Habibie's appointment was interpreted as a sign of Soeharto's unwillingness to reform and regularise Indonesia's economy.

But there was also consternation about the appointment within the ranks of ABRI because, according to the Constitution, Habibie would take over as President in the event of Soeharto's death. Habibie's appointment was symptomatic of the relative decline of ABRI influence compared with the situation in when the Army, against Soeharto's wishes, was able to have its candidate for Vice-President, General Tri Sutrisno, appointed to the office.

Habibie is unpopular amongst the ABRI leadership because he is a rival from a technocratic rather than a military background and because of his sponsorship of the Association of Muslim Intellectuals ICMI which, as a mass organisation, gives Habibie a potential political base outside of Army control. Habibie has also earnt the resentment of many ABRI officers because his organisations have moved into traditional areas of ABRI influence such as defence equipment procurement.

Habibie was the main supporter of the purchase of a number of vessels of the former East German navy which most defence professionals considered were inappropriate for Indonesia's strategic requirements. ABRI's loyalty to Soeharto has ensured that no public criticism of Habibie's appointment has been aired, but it is an open question whether the ABRI leadership would countenance Habibie's assumption of the office of President should Soeharto die or be forced to retire due to ill-health. The possibility that a key institution such as the Army might not accept the person who, in constitutional terms at least, seems most likely to succeed Soeharto underscores the seriousness of the uncertainty surrounding the transition from Soeharto's rule.

The New Order was born out of the bloody suppression of mass politics, with the killing of an estimated people, mostly supporters of the then-powerful Communist Party. The dominance of official politics has been challenged on a few occasions, during student riots in , Muslim riots in Jakarta in , workers' riots in Sumatra in and by the clashes which followed the takeover of the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party PDI in July , but these never amounted to a real challenge to the status quo. Similarly, regional secessionist movements in East Timor, Aceh and Irian Jaya have been largely contained.

There have been periods during which the Government appeared to be loosening political control, particularly during the period of 'openness' in the early s, but these have always been followed by a renewed crackdown on free public expression and independent political activity. The closure of the newsmagazine, Tempo , and the ousting of Megawati Sukarnoputri from the leadership of the PDI one of the three officially-sanctioned parties in shattered any illusions that President Soeharto was willing to allow movement towards democratisation.

A leading dissident academic, Ikrar Musabhakti, was recently quoted as saying:. Our openness is like a rubber ring. It can be opened quite wide sometimes, but the Government can also close it very quickly if it becomes dangerous. The current economic crisis and its attendant social effects have, however, raised the possibility that many ordinary Indonesian people may join in spontaneous or organised movements of protest which turn out to have a major impact on the course of Indonesian politics. There have been riots in a number of regional towns in Indonesia, particularly in the period following the major price increases of January Many of these riots were directed against ethnic Chinese-owned businesses.

Ethnic Chinese make up less than 3 per cent of Indonesia's population, but are said to control 70 per cent of private business activity. There have also been a number of apparently middle class protests in cities such as Jakarta, but these have also been easily contained by the security apparatus. It could be argued that the most important development has been the rise of student demonstrations calling for democratisation and the end of President Soeharto's rule.

To date, however, riot police have prevented the students from taking extending their movement outside the campuses or from joining together with protests organised by middle class or labour organisations. Nevertheless, the situation on many campuses remains volatile and recent reports of the disappearance of students after being beaten and arrested by police can only serve to intensify feelings.

An increase in reports of human rights abuses will also focus international criticism on the Indonesian Government. There may be limits to the extent to which the security forces are able or willing to maintain control over popular protest, especially if the economic situation continues to deteriorate. Urbanisation and other changes in Indonesian society have meant that there are now many more people who could be drawn into a mass movement than might have been the case even a decade ago.


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Recent years have seen the growth of a large number of non-government organisations NGOs committed to social and political change and the emergence of independent labour unions and farmers' organisations. Many middle class people have also been drawn into mass Islamic cultural organisations such as Nahdlatul Ulama NU and Muhammadhiya.

Megawati Sukarnoputri daughter of the famed leader of the Indonesian independence movement, Sukarno has, since her ouster from the PDI, arisen as something of a symbol of opposition to what many see as a repressive system. Some analysts have discussed the possibility of the emergence of some kind of 'people's power' movement in Indonesia, along the lines of the movement responsible for the downfall of President Marcos in the Philippines in The situation also has parallels with the circumstances prevailing before the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in , in that a development-oriented, economically successful regime created an urbanised, increasingly politicised society which lost patience with its government's capacity to guarantee prosperity or create space for political dissent.

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One scenario could be a loose alliance between Abdulrahman Wahid leader of NU , Megawati and Amien Rais leader of Muhammadhiya in a campaign to induce Soeharto to step down or for wider political reform. Such a movement would certainly be supported by the NGO sector and independent labour organisations, but NU and Muhammadhiya have traditionally eschewed oppositional politics in favour of religious and social service.


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Relations between Rais and Wahid have also been strained over a range of differences. Megawati has not yet shown herself to be prepared to lead a major confrontation with the Government. Notwithstanding signs of popular politicisation in recent years, civil society in Indonesia has been stultified for three decades under the New Order and there does not yet appear to be the beginnings of significant organised opposition.

Once again, a great deal will depend on the actions of the Armed Forces. If large scale rioting were to break out in major cities and required a heavy armed response to quell, the prospect of having to shoot people in the streets of Jakarta might cause existing divisions within the ABRI leadership to develop into an open split. The official ABRI position is that it is the protector of the Indonesian state and not any existing government, a doctrine which might make some officers recoil from a violent crackdown if sufficient numbers of Indonesians were to take to the streets.

Such an eventuality would precipitate a political crisis threatening the very existence of the New Order.

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For the moment, however, there are no signs that the current situation has created such pressures within ABRI or that it is having any difficulty in controlling riots or demonstrations. But the fact that such possibilities are even under discussion is an indication of the potential for serious instability and conflict inherent in the situation in Indonesia today.

Relations between Australia and Indonesia since the declaration of an independent Indonesian state in have had a rocky history, with periods of good relations broken by sometimes open animosity. An initial period of warmth prevailed immediately after independence because of the Australian Government's support for Indonesia's independence struggle. The relationship soured following the change of government in Australia in and reached a low point in the early s over the issue of Indonesia's claim on the Dutch-held western half of the island of New Guinea now Irian Jaya and over Indonesia's campaign of 'confrontation' against Malaysia.

Until the late s, relations were dominated by political and security issues in Southeast Asia played out against the background of the Cold War. The tension which characterised relations during the rule of Indonesia's first President, Sukarno, disappeared with Soeharto's rise to power, but the relationship was marked by a series of problems.

The most prominent of these were associated with the invasion of East Timor in especially the killing of five Australia-based journalists and the negative Indonesian response to a Sydney Morning Herald article in detailing the business affairs of President Soeharto. Popular perceptions reflected the mutual ignorance of two neighbouring but very different societies, with most Indonesians hardly aware of Australia's existence and many Australians regarding Indonesia with fear and suspicion.

Since the late s, however, the efforts of the Australian Government, accompanied by Australia's generally increasing economic involvement in the region have facilitated the broadening and deepening of the Indonesia-Australia relationship. These efforts coincided well with the Indonesian Government's desire to move its foreign relations beyond a predominant focus on ASEAN.

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The predominance of politico-strategic issues has been replaced by a broader range of trade and investment relations and greater people-to-people links in the form of two-way tourism, Indonesian students in Australia in Indonesia was the second-largest source of overseas students and the slow development of non-official as well as government-sponsored cultural exchange. Until the mids trade between Australia and Indonesia was insignificant. Since , however, bilateral trade has grown at an average rate of 19 per cent per year and Australia is now Indonesia's sixth largest trading partner and Indonesia is Australia's tenth most important partner.