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
Wednesday 31 July 1996
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.
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