1991-92 Increasing activity among the separatist groups
In 1991, clashes between the army and the liberation movements in Aceh in northern Sumatra worsened, and the military commander at the same time called for a complete extermination of the partisans. In November, Indonesian soldiers shot thousands of demonstrations in Dili, East Timor’s capital. 271 were killed. In March 92, separatist groups launched an armed offensive in the province of Irian Jaya. At the same time, the United States government decided to make a congressional proposal for a $ 2.3 million grant to train Indonesian officers and security forces.
In preparation for the 1992 parliamentary elections, the main opposition party – the PPP – entered into an agreement with Muslim leaders with significant influence over the country. The other opposition party – PDI – responded by bringing several of Sukarno’s children into the political scene – including Guruh, a famous author of popular songs. But once again, Golkar won with 68% of the vote. In March 93, for the sixth time, Suharto was elected by the People’s Assembly as the President of Indonesia.
Throughout the 1990s, exports of gas, oil, timber and new industrial products, together with tourism revenue, were responsible for annual GDP growth of 6-8%. Yet, 27% of the population lived in absolute poverty. The rapid harvesting of forests and the implementation of major infrastructure projects led to the loss of fertile lands and the displacement of rural people.
According to Countryaah, the Muslims who make up 90% of the population increasingly directed their protests against the privileges of the Chinese and Christians. In March 1994, a scandal was revealed in which Chinese businessmen and politicians from the ruling party were implicated. In June, the government closed a newspaper and two of the opposition’s journals. Protests carried out that artists and intellectuals were not covered in journalism. In March 95, Minister of Information Harmoko ordered the members of the Alliance of Independent Journalists arrested. It had been formed after the closure of the 3 leaves the year before. In September, the government banned a former Sukarno assistant’s release of his memoirs, as well as several public leaders’ public appearances. In East Timor, the liberation movement faced significant pressure from the military.
Through 1995, the higher technocratic middle class manifested its growing interest in political opening. Nevertheless, it was estimated that Suharto would once again win the presidential election in 98. The polemical Minister of Research and Technology, BJ Habibie, positioned himself as a possible successor to Suharto, ensuring that a number of the president’s younger allies came forward at the expense of older generals.
In August, Suharto ordered the political prisoners released, who had been in prison for 30 years since the 1965 uprising. In May, he announced a plan for a reduction in the number of seats in parliament that would be assigned to officers in 1997.
Despite having two more years to run in the 1997 parliamentary elections, Information Minister Harmoko made a journey through Indonesia in support of the Golkar government party. The opposition accused the government of meddling in its internal affairs. Accusations came especially from PDI, led by Megawati Sukarnoputri – Sukarno’s daughter.
In 1996, the political climate became increasingly tense as several charges of illegal enrichment of the president’s family and his friends emerged. The military regarded the Islamic groups, PDI and Sukarnoputri as the greatest threats to the Suharto regime. The change in the political climate was linked to the increased circulation of news. Despite growing political uncertainty, the economy continued to grow and inflation remained under control. Still, the trade surplus was diminished. Particularly due to a reduction in exports of key products such as textiles. The 75-year-old Suharto had to travel to Germany to undergo medical examinations, which questioned his continued power.
In early 1997, the country’s population passed the 200 million. The government took the opportunity to declare that it continued the Transmigrasi program for the transfer of population from the most densely populated areas to the less populated areas. Extensive forest fires had serious consequences for the environment. The dense clouds of smoke also affected neighboring countries in the area – especially Malaysia and Singapore.
The Golkar ruling party once again won the parliamentary elections on May 29, 97, when it got 74% of the vote and 325 out of Parliament’s 400 seats. President Suharto had 12 family members in the new parliament: 6 sons, 2 wives, 2 brothers-in-law, 1 brother and 1 cousin. Furthermore, there were a large number of his business associates and other friends. On March 10, 98, Suharto was re-elected for his 7th term.