Figure of hate who is wary of winning

Unrest in Indonesia: Regime's stooge blamed for frustrating hopes that, after 30 years, a democracy might at last emerge

You would never guess from meeting him that Dr Suryadi is the most hated man in Indonesia. As he receives visitors in his office at Jakarta's parliament building, he is geniality incarnate. He talks of his love of gardening ("Mangoes, melons, durians - I am thinking of turning it into a business!").

He pooh-poohs threats he has received over the phone ("My children treat them as a source of amusement.") and points out the photographs and mementoes he has accumulated as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Here, reverently framed, is Dr Suryadi shaking hands with the Prince and Princess of Wales. Here, displayed a little less prominently, is Dr Suryadi and the Pope. There, on the side table, is a fluffy model of a black bull, purchased by Dr Suryadi in Spain. But this is more than a cute knick-knack - the bull is the symbol of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), of which he is chairman.

After a few minutes of Dr Suryadi's gentle charm it is a shock to be reminded of this fact - for all his avuncular twinkliness and green fingers, he does not strike one as leadership material. This a view shared by rather a large number of people in Jakarta these days. Since Saturday, at least three people have died, dozens have disappeared, hundreds have been injured, and ten thousand have rioted in a desperate attempt to stop Dr Suryadi taking up his post as leader of the PDI.

To be fair, it is not all his fault. Although he has many enemies, the worst they can rationally say about him is that he is a willing puppet. It is not the cause he represents which inflamed Jakarta over the weekend but the hopes he frustrated - fragile hopes that after 30 years of growth and advancing national confidence, Indonesia might at last develop a democracy sophisticated enough to match its economic and diplomatic clout.

Six weeks ago, at the party congress, organised and manipulated by the government, Dr Suryadi was elected leader of the PDI, to replace Megawati Sukarnoputri, the incumbent chairwoman, who is everything Dr Suryadi is not - female, nationally popular, and of distinguished political stock (her father was Sukarno, Indonesia's first president).

As a political thinker, she lives under constraints, in a country where divergence from the government point of view can all too easily be painted as treasonable subversion.

But her stubborn campaign to hold on to her position as PDI leader and the sit-in organised by her supporters at PDI headquarters in central Jakarta have become symbols of resistance to the 30-year regime of President Suharto.

Although she has never said as much herself, many hoped Mrs Megawati would stand for president in 1998, by which time Mr Suharto will be 77. At the very least, it was believed that, rigged ballots notwithstanding, she would give the ruling Golkar party a run for its money in elections next year.

The government also seems to have believed this, which is why they elevated Dr Suryadi. He is perhaps the only opposition leader in the world who does not want his party to win in elections. "No, not yet," he says, fondling his bull. "It's very hard for the time being."

Indonesia has seen riots before but they had an ethnic or regional character - independence fighters in East Timor, or the resentful vandalism of rich Japanese companies in 1974. When police attacked and arrested Mrs Megawati's supporters on Saturday, the subsequent unrest was something new - a violent frustration not with an invader or a race, but with a political system. It may be reassuring to Dr Suryadi that, for all the odium he has attracted this week, it is nothing personal.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee