Subject: CNS: Church leaders hope new Indonesian president will end conflicts

Church leaders hope new Indonesian president will end conflicts By Catholic News Service

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNS) -- Some church leaders in Indonesia expressed hope that newly sworn-in President Megawati Sukarnoputri will bring an end to political conflicts.

Archbishop Longinus da Cunha of Ende, deputy chairman of the Indonesian bishops' conference, said he hoped Megawati's administration could control turbulence and conflicts that have claimed so many lives, reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand.

Jesuit Father Franz Magnis-Suseno, lecturer at Jesuit-run Driyarkara School of Philosophy, also expressed hope that the new government and legislators would begin to concentrate on serving the country.

``There must be no more conflict between them because it will affect the nation's life,'' the priest told UCA News July 23.

Megawati, daughter of Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, was sworn in as Indonesia's fifth president and first female head of state July 23.

She replaced president Abdurrahman Wahid, who was ousted by Indonesia's assembly.

Among the president's tasks will be to find solutions to the violence surrounding separatist movements in Aceh and West Papua and to end the conflict in West Timor, where some 60,000 East Timorese reside in camps controlled by militias.

Nearly 600 lawmakers from nine of 11 political parties voted to oust Wahid and appoint Megawati, a 54-year-old Muslim, as the new president. The assembly has 700 members.

Archbishop da Cunha noted that Megawati had been second in the national leadership.

``Time will prove her ability as the No. 1 person in the country,'' he said, adding that he hopes all people will accept her.

Archbishop da Cunha said he also hopes that the assembly's special session will be a starting point for the improvement of national life.

``We sons and daughters of the nation have been suffering a lot,'' he said.

All members of the assembly should voice the true aspirations of the people and work for the interests and the common good of the people, he said.

``The common good is the basis of the morality of politics,'' the archbishop said.

``Giving priority to personal and group interests would tarnish national solidarity and unity as a nation,'' he said.

Father Magnis-Suseno, an observer and columnist for local newspapers on sociopolitical issues, said Megawati should give special attention to the unity of the nation, which is facing threats of disintegration.

The German-born priest urged the new president to select ``clean and professional people'' for her Cabinet.

In her inaugural speech, Megawati vowed to cooperate with all elements of the nation to cope with the country's problems.

Some human rights groups expressed concern that Megawati, a vocal opponent of the referendum that led to East Timor's independence and to the separatist movements in other parts of the archipelago, could be a hard-line supporter of the Indonesian military.

``Megawati's political party includes East Timorese militia leaders. A recent meeting of the party also included representatives from East Timor, indicating the party did not recognize East Timor as a country separate from Indonesia,'' said John Miller, spokesman for the New York-based East Timor Action Network.

``This is clearly not a good sign with regard to human rights,'' Miller told Catholic News Service.


07/24/2001 12:07 PM ET

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