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Damage From 1997 Asian Crisis Still Unfolding
By David DeRosa

3/6/2001 9:30 pm Sun

[Malaysia mungkin akan mengikuti jejak langkah Indonesia yang sudah bercelaru dan tidak menentu sekarang ini. Yang mendapat mandat tidak berupaya membaiki negara itu manakala yang layak tidak pula terpilih untuk meneraju. Negara itu sudah rosak serosaknya akibat dikerjakan terlalu lama oleh Suharto sehingga tiada sesiapa pun mampu membaikinya dengan kadar yang segera. Akibatnya ramai yang terpaksa hidup menderita untuk tempoh yang mungkin amat lama.

Krisis ekonomi telah menggoncangkan senario politik negara - ia menghumban semua diktator yang ada dengan sendirinya. Inilah putaran alam untuk membersihkan dirinya yang pasti berlaku walaupun asyik cuba ditunda. Semakin lama kejijikkan dibiarkan semakin sukar untuk membaiki kemusnahan. Apa yang berlaku di Indonesia seharusnya menjadi iktibar untuk mereka yang mempunyai aqal fikiran. Kita akan mengundang huru-hara yang mengerikan kerana terlalu lama berdiam membiarkan pemimpin negara melakukan kerosakkan. Sesal dahulu pendapatan - sesal kemudian sudah tidak berguna lagi. Keseronokkan hari ini akan padam dan petandanya sudah pun mula kelihatan... Ramai yang akan tersimpul dan terjerat nanti di dalam kesusutan.
- Editor
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06/03 00:03

Damage From 1997 Asian Crisis Still Unfolding

By David DeRosa

New Canaan, Connecticut, June 3(Bloomberg) -- For Indonesians, the last four years must seem like hell on earth. What in the world has happened to that country?

Everything started to fall apart in the summer of 1997 with the onset of the Asian financial crisis. The crisis was both economic and political. Perhaps the best single word to describe the last four years is chaos. And in truth, nobody today can give a solid prediction for how all this will come out in the end for Indonesia.

In 1997 there was a view that the financial crisis, though devastating in the economic sense, might bring some political blessings. Had it not been for the double crash of the stock market and the rupiah, Suharto, the dictator of 32 years, might well still be in power.

It could have been argued that the crisis was a cost of getting rid of the tyrant. Indonesians, though far poorer, were at least a free people. Other countries have paid much more dearly to rid themselves of tyrants.

But it now appears that freedom came to Indonesia at an inopportune time. After three decades of Suharto's iron fist, not surprisingly, no viable alternative candidate to lead the country was available. Those who were electable were unable to govern. And those who could govern were unelectable.

Poor Choices

And that's how a country like Indonesia could wind up with a wholly unsuitable president like Abdurrahman Wahid. Worse yet, even if they get rid of Wahid -- and the parliament appears ready to do just that by impeachment -- no viable replacement is on the scene.

But what did you expect after 32 years of Suharto? Grooming a replacement wasn't high on the man's agenda.

And let's not forget who is running Malaysia. Prime Minister Mahathir, I submit, was also destroyed by the crisis. Although he is still very much in power, the crisis made his own version of the Asian miracle a lie.

And even if you want to buy into the nonsense that Mahathir found ``a kinder, gentler way'' (compared to the International Monetary Fund's programs), one thing must be considered: Talented Malaysians of all ethnic background seem to be voting with their feet. The movers and shakers have packed up and left.

But Malaysia may have the same problem as Indonesia. If they can force Mahathir out, whom will they have as a replacement?

Ah, but you say, there is the worthy Anwar Ibrahim, who languishes in Mahathir's jail, having been falsely accused by the tyrant.

Well that would make for a nice storybook ending. Throngs of Malaysians storm the jail to free Anwar. There is a special election and Anwar, by then a national hero, becomes prime minister. Get over it. When Mahathir finally falls, anything could happen, including the people totally forgetting about Anwar.

Thaksin Populism

Last on my Southeast Asian parade of leaders is the new guy in Thailand, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, or Thaksin for short. His bit is populism. But like H. Ross Perot once said of President Bill Clinton, he isn't house broken yet. I refer to his usurpation of the Thai central bank last week.

Even if Thaksin were right about monetary policy, and believe me he doesn't have a clue, what right does he have to fire the governor of the central bank and replace him with a puppet?

There is something very alarming about not just what he did but how he justified it, saying, in so many words, that the central bank was being run for foreign investor not for Thai citizens.

So there you have it -- this is what politics in Southeast Asia has become post Asian financial crisis: Wahid, Mahathir, and Thaksin. What a crew.