(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Suharto said in Cairo for the first time in three months of protests against his 32 years of rule that he was willing to step down if he is no longer trusted.
The time is well past for Suharto to talk about whether he is willing to step down as Indonesian President or not, as the deepening economic and political turmoils in Indonesia have shown that he does not have the political will or the capability to carry out the wide-ranging political, economic and financial reforms needed in the country.
The best solution for the Indonesian crisis is for Suharto to step down as Indonesian President to allow for a transition to a more open, accountable and democratic form of government.
The shooting of six students on Tuesday, leading to worsening clashes and riots in the past two days, are clear signals that the days of the Suharto regime are numbered as it has lost legitimacy and that the most important agenda in Indonesia is to bring about an orderly post-Suharto transition.
Suharto's greatest and final contribution to Indonesia is to help effect an orderly transition to a post-Suharto Indonesia. He should resist the temptation to resort to brute force and violence to suppress the legitimate aspirations of Indonesians for social justice and a greater say in deciding their country's destiny, or he might be remembered not for what Indonesia had achieved in the past 32 years in terms of economic development, but for the blood on his hands in terms of the number of Indonesians killed for demanding a transition to a post-Suharto Indonesia.
ASEAN Governments should convey their concerns to Suharto and the Indonesian government at the deteriorating situation in Indonesia, and the imperative need to protect the lives and properties, whether of Indonesians, minorities or foreigners as well as how a new protracted Indonesian crisis can plunge South East Asian economies into a new round of economic turmoils.