In Brief... Indonesia Unravels

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In Brief... Indonesia Unravels

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Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has failed to retain the loyalty of a majority of the People’s Representative Council. As a result, the parliament voted overwhelmingly-by a 365 to 4 margin-May 30 to initiate impeachment hearings. Wahid’s ouster, which most likely will come before the end of the summer, will send his supporters into a frenzy; indeed, many have pledged to fight to the death in support of the president. As the military and police focus their efforts on restoring stability in the capital and island of Java, separatist forces in Aceh, Borneo and Sulawesi will increase their attempts to secure independence.

Wahid’s government is likely to fall sometime this summer, no later than autumn. Two important events have shifted the ground under Wahid’s feet. First, he persistently undercut the military that once guaranteed the power of the president. Second, Wahid played so many political factions against one another that now none will stand with him. Already the military is warning civilian leaders, cracking down on separatists and arresting opponents.

Yet Indonesia’s great secret is the weakness of its security forces. For decades, they ruthlessly held the republic together.

Today, however, intelligence indicates that the 300,000-man army is a mere shell of its former self. Civil unrest and recent deployments have eroded discipline; field units ignore rules of engagement and even open fire on other forces. An outbreak of violence across the country will make it impossible for the army to hold the nation of 17,500 islands together.

Separatist movements in the provinces, allied with local business and military interests, will move to seize advantage. Upheaval in the outermost islands will pose problems for energy companies and will threaten to spill refugees into Australia, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia.

Governments in these neighboring nations will be forced to consider action. The security of the sea lanes that link the Indian and the Pacific Oceans will become uncertain, as will the security of U.S. and other naval forces that pass through these narrow bottlenecks of ocean.

Source: Stratfor Global Intelligence Report, May 23 and 30, 2001.

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