Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Friday, August 11, 2000

Indonesian president
decides to share power

Bullet The issue: Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid announced he would put Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri in charge of the government.
Bullet Our view: Indonesia needs effective leadership but neither Wahid nor Megawati may be capable of providing it.

TWO years after the ouster of President Suharto, Indonesia remains in turmoil. In the latest attempt to achieve some semblance of effective governance, President Abdurrahman Wahid announced he would hand over day-to-day administration to his popular deputy.

Since his election last October by the national parliament, Wahid, a widely respected, liberal Muslim leader, has been strongly criticized for his erratic behavior as president that some charge has made the country's grave problems worse. There have even been threats of impeachment.

Now he says he will delegate much of his power to Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of another former president and dictator, Sukarno, and the public's current favorite politician. Megawati was awarded the vice presidency as a consolation prize after the legislators chose Wahid as president although her party won more seats than any other.

Both were leaders of the opposition to Suharto but their relationship became strained after taking office.

Megawati, like Wahid, had no previous administrative experience before her election. By nature retiring, she rarely speaks in public and seems ill-suited to a prominent role in government. There is no assurance the government will function any better with Megawati in charge.

Wahid said Megawati would remain accountable to him and he would devote more attention to foreign policy. "I understand the need to change the management of the government," he said in a speech read for him by an aide to the People's Consultative Assembly. "Because of this I will ask the vice president to carry out daily technical duties."

Since his election, Wahid has spent considerable time on trips abroad. He is said to have sought support from foreign governments to help keep Indonesia from disintegrating.

That remains a distinct possibility. The separation of East Timor from Indonesia, achieved despite the terrorist tactics of pro-Jakarta militias, could be followed by secession attempts in West Sumatra and West New Guinea, where revolts are simmering. Christian-Muslim violence is wreaking havoc in the Moluccas despite Megawati's futile attempts at peacemaking there.

Wahid's decision to surrender powers to Megawati was not spontaneous. It came hours after senior legislators demanded such a move. Most of the factions within the parliament accused him of mishandling the nation's affairs during his 10 months in office.

Smitten by a series of strokes and virtually blind, Wahid was a surprise choice for president.

He was known as a shrewd political strategist and a man of principle while in the opposition. But he seemed ill-equipped by training or interest to deal with Indonesia's crushing economic problems or to provide the leadership needed to hold the country together in these stressful times. His performance in the months since his election seemed to confirm those doubts.

Putting Megawati in charge and reshuffling the cabinet may mollify the critics temporarily. Whether it will reduce the turmoil and restore confidence is anybody's guess. Indonesia sorely needs effective leadership from someone.

Prostitution-free zone
expansion won’t work

Bullet The issue: The City Council has adopted a proposal to ban streetwalking in areas where prostitution is solicited mostly in bars and nightclubs.
Bullet Our view: A law that seems to have worked in Waikiki may not be effective in other areas.

A strategy that seems to have curbed prostitution in Waikiki may not be as successful in other areas. The City Council has given initial approval of a plan to give Wahiawa, downtown Honolulu and the Kapiolani Boulevard area similar prostitution-free designations, but intrinsic differences between Waikiki and those neighborhoods raise questions about the plan's potential effectiveness.

The state Legislature last year designated Waikiki a prostitution-free zone, creating a new crime of "street solicitation" on public property. Violators faced the choice of a 30-day jail term or agreeing to stay out of the area between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. The strategy's success prompted the Legislature this year to allow counties to extend it to other areas.

Police Lt. Michael Johnson of the morals detail told the City Council that the strategy worked in Waikiki because most prostitutes are streetwalkers who were deprived of their base of operation -- Waikiki's sidewalks. When Councilman Andy Mirikitani proposed creating such a zone reaching from Makiki to Ala Moana Boulevard, Johnson questioned its effectiveness.

"There just isn't a significant amount of street prostitution in that area," Johnson said, "so the big question is whether hostess bars and strip clubs would be considered public property as defined by state law."

Under state law, public property clearly does not include private business establishments, and any attempt to give it such a convoluted definition would fail in court.

Concerns that such a law, if upheld in its enforcement in bars and nightclubs, would merely drive prostitution into other areas are legitimate. However, the proposal's main flaw is its incongruous -- and unconstitutional -- attempt to ban streetwalking indoors.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin