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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 2. 1965.

Indonesia — Sukarno's Leadership


Sukarno's Leadership

Mr. M. W. Raffel, of the Political Science Department, talks to Salient.

"In our eyes Indonesia's image is not good," while our image of Malaysia is a favourable one, Mr. Raffel said. "Malaysia is democratic, politically stable, economically viable and anti-Communist, while Indonesia is a 'guided democracy,' which to many means the dictatorship of a ruling elite; it is politically unstable, having a history of changing cabinets and warring factions and of economic chaos, with rising inflation and widespread famine. Also, the English-speaking world might point to her as an aggressor. Moreover, she is not anti-Communist, and is, in fact, under heavy pressure from the Communist sector."

To understand Indonesia, Mr. Raffel went on, it was essential to try to understand her leadership. "Sukarno operates within a political framework; when he speaks, therefore, he may at times be speaking not for himself but under pressure from the Communists or the army, depending on how the forces of the nation are aligned at the moment. It may be a speech to redress some imbalance."

No one is privy to the inner thoughts of Sukarno or of army head Nasution, and there have been no resigning politicians from the inner circle to hold press conferences or write expose books; in fact, the political opposition was either in prison or under heavy threat of imprisonment if they opposed the regime too strongly. There were no congressional investigations and no diligent press to unearth facts. These difficulties, Mr. Raffel explained, meant that any anlysis could only be tentative.

Although Sukarno is a key political figure, he is far from being the only force. It often seems that he and his alter ego. Dr. Subandroio, control the Indonesian stage, and his ability to mould symbols which rally the people are well-nigh legendary. "He was able, over the issue of West Irian, for example, to divert the attention of his people from inflation, widespread corruption in government, the excessive size of the civil service and the army, and a host of other problems; to focus their attention instead on the unfinished Indonesian Revolution, on the last remaining bulwark of colonial power on Indonesian territory—Dutch New Guinea. What a salve for the many headaches which plague Indonesian society!"