Indonesia ATL: The Presidency of Try Sutrisno (1997-)

Introduction and Prologue
For obvious reasons, Indonesia circa 1965 seems to be a popular choice on these forum. My idea is about something more recent.

IRL, in November 1997, Suharto goes on a foreign trip which includes attending the APEC Summit, visiting some African countries, and even going on an Umrah in Saudi Arabia. When he arrives in Jakarta on 29th November 1997, Suharto collapsed. The diagnosis is sketchy but it is widely believed to be a minor stroke.

In this ATL, I'm proposing that the stroke is major and Suharto dies. Leaving Vice President Try Sutrisno to take over as the third President of Indonesia.


A little about Try Sutrisno:
-A General in the Indonesian Army.
-Not of Suharto's generation of officers, belonging instead to the generation of officers who began their career in late 50s/early 60s.
-Did create an impression with Suharto and his generals in 1972, when as a major he was chosen to speak representing the younger generation of officers and make a pledge to preserve the values of the Suharto's generation of officer corps.
-Became Suharto's aide-de-camp (1974-1978) and became Suharto's golden boy among the younger generation of officers.
-Was second in command at the Nusa Tenggara Regional Command which oversaw East Timor (1978-1979) and held regional commands at South Sumatra (1979-1982) and Jakarta (1982-1985). Then Deputy Army Chief of Staff (1985-1986) and Army Chief of Staff (1986-1988). Military career culminated in being appointed Commander of the Armed Forces (1988-1993).
-Was imposed by the Armed Forces on Suharto as a vice president in 1993.
-Cracked down/massacred Islamist anti-government protesters in Jakarta in 1984. Put his support behind the shootings at Santa Cruz Incident in East Timor.
-Seen to be a figure that could be accepted by all as a future leader in Suharto's Indonesia. A loyal Army man but who is a the same time a devout Muslim. At the same time, does not have any big ideas for the future.

Some things to consider:
-The Vice Presidency during Suharto's New Order was a place to reward those who are loyal but politically safe people. It was often speculated that if Suharto died mid-term, the vice president would succeed to the presidency but would only be an interim rather than a permanent leader.

-By this stage in Suharto's presidency, certain cabinet ministers (Habibie, Harmoko), officers (Wiranto), and family members (Daughter Tutut and son-in-law Maj. Gen. Prabowo) were either seen as or positioning themselves to be successors to Suharto. All are jockeying for position with/against each other. Suharto's death means that the time has come for them to make the final push for the presidency.

-In November 1997, the Asian Financial Crisis was beginning to be felt in Indonesia but not to the point where riots were on the horizon. People were beginning to be laid off and beginning to withdraw cash at the bank but not yet at the point where there was panic buying in the Supermarket.

-Suharto's sixth term was due to end in March 1998 when the People's Consultative Assembly will assemble to elect a president and vice president. A Suharto death in late November 1997 gives Try 3 months to consolidate and try to make his position permanent.

Some Questions:
-How would Try consolidate his position to ensure that his presidency is not an interim one?

-How would Try handle his fellow presidential contenders? Who does he ally with? Who does he see as his main rival?

-How would Try balance the various institutions and competing interests (Armed Forces, Golkar, cabinet, business interests, Suharto children)? How would he deal with opposition figures?

-Would Try be able to guide Indonesia through the Asian Financial Crisis where Suharto failed IRL?

-Would Try be able to initiate political reform and give Indonesia a less turbulent political transition unlike IRL?

Indonesia ATL: The Presidency of Try Sutrisno (1997-)

4th February 1997:
"But in unexpected circumstances, when people can't tell when they're going to get into a misadventure or pass away, there's a mechanism for that.

So if the president is permanently incapacitated, the vice president will therefore be the president to complete the remainder of the presidential term. If the remainder of the term is 2 years, then the new president's term will be 2 years.

As such, this new president who is previously the vice president and who has ascended to the office, he will now hold the mandate originally given to his predecessor because this predecessor has passed away", said President Soeharto to the Golkar Council of Patrons iftar dinner meeting with Vice President Try Sutrisno looking on.

What Soeharto says above is a transcript of what he says in 9:48-10:20 of the following video. The camera zooms in on Try's face as Soeharto says all this.
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1: An Unexpected Turn of Events
1: An Unexpected Turn of Events

29th November 1997:

Vice President Try Sutrisno and the Second Lady Tuti Setiawati arrived at Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusumah Airport along with the vice presidential motorcade. No, they were not going on an international trip. But they, more specifically Try, were there to conduct one of the Vice President’s protocolar duties: being the first to welcome President Soeharto back home from his most recent trip abroad.

The Second Lady commented that the President was taking on a lot of work, more out of the fact that the Vice President had not been left with work to do during the President’s two weeks abroad rather than concern for his health. “There is no room for two suns in the sky”, Try replied.

Try knew his place. Soeharto does not suffer challengers and pretenders and had seen many of them off with his wily political skills. Soeharto did not seem to be in any hurry to leave his office either. His choices to be vice president over the years were those who were loyal and safe, without ambition or without the political base to mount a challenge.

Try was of that mould but was different. He was loyal, safe, but was imposed by the Armed Forces of the Republic of Indonesia (ABRI) on Soeharto. It was ABRI’s way of positioning one of their own as a successor to Soeharto. Soeharto had accepted the imposition to avoid the spectacle of the President falling out with ABRI but had treated Try much like his past vice presidents: delegating ceremonial duties and giving them the task of supervising policy implementation but not allowing them any real task or contribution to the government. At this point, however, there was no point complaining. There was only three and a half months left in the present term of office.

At Halim, a coterie was bustling in the fading light of the day; Presidential Bodyguards readying the motorcade to take the President back home, ministers and officers chatting with each other about various matters, and the President’s family getting ready to greet their patriarch.

Not long after Try’s arrival, the timing of these things having been calculated to the second, The Presidential Aircraft appeared on the horizon, landed, and then taxied precisely where the small crowd had gathered. A staircase was wheeled to the aircraft’s front door and Try and Tuti took their positions at the bottom of the staircase.

An old man appeared at the top of the staircase and slowly made his way down; an old man who had dominated and ruled his nation for three decades.

“Mr. President”, Try said as he shook Soeharto’s hand “Welcome back home.”

“Mr. Vice President”, Soeharto replied.

The pleasantries were not long. Soeharto said that he would like to rest at the airport lounge for a bit and get updates on what had happened when he was gone from the ministers. “You have an early start tomorrow morning to the provinces, I hear, Mr. Vice President. It’s best you go get some rest”, the President said.

Try smiled at the irony of a man who had travelled to Canada for APEC, visited African countries to build trade links there, and then went on an Umrah at Saudi Arabia telling him to get some rest. But the President always has his ways to make it clear when he did not want Try in the meetings.

The Vice President returned to his Official Residence and looked at some paperwork. An hour later, an aide told him that State Secretary Moerdiono and Army Chief of Staff Wiranto were there to see him.


State Secretary Moerdiono (Left) and Army Chief of Staff General Wiranto (Right)
Try had met with Moerdiono at Halim Airport earlier; the latter having been part of the Presidential retinue overseas. The State Secretary was a powerful cabinet-level position analogous to the White House Chief of Staff’s position. It combined the role of advisor, administrator, and gatekeeper in the one person.

Moerdiono’s face was pale. He asked if he could talk to Try somewhere private. Try took Moerdiono and Wiranto to his study. Try asked Moerdiono what was going on.

“President Soeharto is dead”, Moerdiono gasped out.

Try thought it was a bad joke and looked at Wiranto. Wiranto’s face was grim and tears flowed down his face.

As Try sat down on a couch to figure out what he was hearing, Moerdiono told his story. How the President was struck down by a massive stroke while meeting with his ministers. Soeharto’s exhaustion, his travels, his work, and his age all simply caught up with him. They took him to the Army Hospital but nothing could be done.

In disbelief, Try turned the television on. News bulletins were carrying the headline “Sources saying that President Soeharto has died”.

Try asked Moerdiono what happens now. Moerdiono said it’s important that there be no power vacuum and said that he has organized for a short ceremony at the Presidential Palace within the hour. The Supreme Court will act as witnesses due to the urgency of the situation.

The Vice President, at least for another hour, nodded. He then looked at Wiranto. Wiranto said that he was declaring himself for Try. Try smiled and recognizing that the internal factionalism in the Army, asked Wiranto which units were under his control at the moment.

“The Presidential Bodyguards and the Army Strategic Reserve are for you, sir. I also have the West Java Military Command on standby as well”, Wiranto said “The rest are either for the Minister of Research and Technology or the President…deceased President’s son-in-law”.

It was at that point that the Commander of ABRI General Feisal Tanjung arrived. Feisal said that ABRI and its four branches, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the Police were all declaring for Try.

Try noted that Feisal, who was more senior than Wiranto, had arrived later. He could only guess that the general was either late or doing his own political calculations. Try made eye contact with Wiranto as he shook hands with Feisal and told him with his eyes to remember their earlier talk.

As the small meeting ended, Try told Moerdiono to prepare a statement to be read at the inauguration and prepare a State Funeral for Soeharto.

To the bemused look of his wife, Try told her that they need to get dressed. Try wore a suit with a black tie, along with the national hat, the peci. They then departed for the Presidential Palace, holding each other’s hands with bemusement at the way the day’s events had turned out.

At the Presidential Palace, Try and Tuti were whisked inside the Presidential Palace. By this time, print and television media had gathered. Saturday night though it was, the nation’s attention was now directed towards the momentous developments occurring before them.

Most of the television channels had a split screen occurring, on the left side showing scenes from the Presidential Palace, on the right showing scenes from Soeharto’s private residence where his dead body had just arrived and visitors were beginning to pay their final respects.

It was 8 PM when Try emerged to face the cameras. Flashbulbs snapped and red lights recorded Try’s every move as he officially announced Soeharto’s death, declared seven day’s mourning, and announced that there will be a State Funeral tomorrow morning. He urged the nation to pray for Soeharto and his family.

Try would have stumbled delivering the news he had officially delivered and confirmed had there not been a speech in his hand. But Try would most definitely froze through what he said next if there was no text to refer to.

“In light of the tragic events I have described to you all today, the Presidency as of the time of Mr. Soeharto’s death has become vacant.

Article 8 of our Constitution states that ‘Should the President die, resign, or be incapacitated during his term, he shall be replaced by the Vice President until the completion of the term’.

I hereby invoke that article.”

There was a pause as the nation’s Supreme Court judges appeared to witness what was about to occur. A new text was handed to Try and a religious official holding a Qur’an appeared to hold the Islamic Holy Book above his head.

“In accordance with Article 9 of the Constitution, before assuming the office of President, I shall conduct my constitutional duty of reciting the Presidential Oath of Office which reads as follows:

‘In the name of God, I swear that I will fulfill the responsibilities of the President of the Republic of Indonesia as best and as justly as I can; Holding true to the Constitution and executing its laws and regulations as purely as I can and being of service to the Nation’”

It was an abrupt ceremony. President Try Sutrisno immediately turned and disappeared back into the Presidential Palace. He could hear questions such as “How will you deal with the currency crisis?” and “Which policies will be changed?” from the throng of journalists behind him.

There would be plenty of time to address such matters and more.

Presidents of the Republic of Indonesia


1st President of the Republic of Indonesia
18th August 1945-12th March 1967


2nd President of the Republic of Indonesia
12th March 1967-29th November 1997


Try Sutrisno
3rd President of the Republic of Indonesia
29th November 1997-
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2: The Lay of the Land
2: The Lay of the Land

30th November 1997:

At a State Funeral that was more royal than presidential, Soeharto was laid to rest at Astana Giribangun Mausoleum in Central Java.

President Try Sutrisno lauded his predecessor in the eulogy he read out, thanking Soeharto for saving the nation from communism and for raising the standard of living of Indonesia in the three decades in which he was President. Try concluded his eulogy by calling on the nation to continue Soeharto’s work.

The President’s mind wandered to Soeharto’s family, now headed by Tutut, Soeharto’s eldest daughter. He had known them closely from his days as Soeharto’s aide-de-camp in the seventies. They had grown fond of him and he of them. Tears were shed when Try departed to take up his new posting.

Soeharto’s children were now rich business men and women with various business interests. he result of hard work, to be sure, but also the results of taking advantage of their father’s name and influence.

Try would not classify them as a greedy. The Soeharto children were always so happy go-lucky that sometimes Try wondered if their business avarice was the result of mingling with people wanting to ride on the Soeharto coat-tails for their own advantage. They were spoiled, Try had admitted. They could be specific with what they wanted and government officials learned to say “Yes” to them or run the risk that they would run to their father and pout.

As he looked at the Soeharto children shaking hands with well wishers, Try wondered if he had it in him to stand up to them.

1st December 1997:

After a busy morning tackling the paperwork, Try lunched with Moerdiono. Moerdiono noted Try’s efforts on the paperwork as “Soeharto-esque”. Try said that he wasn’t shocked at what the paperwork was like because he had seen Soeharto working at them as an aide-de-camp two decades prior. “A perk of that job, I suppose”, Try said.

Try thanked Moerdiono for bringing the news of Soeharto’s death to him and for organizing his inauguration.

“I wanted to keep the power vacuum as short as possible”, Moerdiono replied “So that by the time someone in East Timor thought ‘Here’s our chance to break away’, there was already a new president in charge.”

Moerdiono looked at the distance.

“That and I wanted to keep the vultures from taking away the King’s crown while his corpse was still warm”, he said again.

The President also met with Chairman of the People’s Representative Council (DPR)/Chairman of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Harmoko. Harmoko stood at a strategic juncture in Indonesian politics. As Chairman of the DPR, he headed Indonesia’s 500 strong legislative branch. As Chairman of the MPR, he will chair the 1000 strong electoral college-like institution which will go into a conclave-like gathering in March 1998 to elect the president and vice president.

Try and Harmoko agreed on the following arrangements for the government:

-The DPR/MPR recognizes and acknowledges the new President’s leadership of the nation.

-The present term of government, having started on 11th March 1993, will end on 11th March 1998.

-The vice presidency will remain vacant until that time.

In addition to the DPR/MPR, Harmoko was also the Chairman of Golkar, the political party supporting the government and which holds majority in both the DPR and MPR. In this capacity, Harmoko said that given Soeharto had been Golkar’s Presidential nominee at the time of his death, this nomination would have to be reviewed. Try agrees.

As he watched Harmoko leave, Try could not help but think that with the positions he held, Harmoko could play the role of Kingmaker in Indonesian politics. Perhaps even try to be the king himself.

No less important was a meeting with the Coordinating Minister of Economics Saleh Affif, Minister of Finance Mar’ie Muhammad, Minister of National Development Planning Ginandjar Kartasasmita and the Governor of the Central Bank Soedrajad Djiwandono.

Try regarded them as they took their seats in front of him. Soeharto’s legitimacy had been based on economic development. Economic growth of 7% per annum over his three decades in office, increased living standards, and decreasing poverty. Such successes was also the work of the US-educated economic ministers which Soeharto appointed to the cabinet.

Now, only a watered down version of that team remained. Soeharto had grown confident in his mastery to balance economic policy with the business interests of his cronies and children and had eroded their authority.

The ministers reported the following:

-The Rupiah stands at Rp. 4,030 = $1 after Soeharto’s death. It loss value after Soeharto’s death but a quick leadership transition has prevented any further damage.

-The government is at present implementing policies it had promised to do in exchange for $43 billion in aid in its Letter of Intent (LOI) dated 31st October 1997 to the IMF. One of the key steps taken include the closing down of 16 financially unviable banks.

-The ministers complained of intervention from those close to the former president. The government’s decision to close 16 troubled banks on 1st November was the right decision but this is undermined when Soeharto allowed his son Bambang, whose bank was among those closed, to reopen under a different name. Add to the fact that Soeharto’s brother Probosutedjo, whose bank was among those closed, is launching a lawsuit against the government to have the bank reopened.

-At the same time, consortiums involved in infrastructure projects delayed in September 1997 by the former president were also appealing to have their projects reinstated.

Try told the ministers to implement the LOI as signed and delivered to the IMF. The overall aim of implementing the LOI, Try said, is to increase leverage in negotiations when the IMF comes to review progress in January. He will provide more specific directions at the full cabinet meeting later in the week.

2nd December 1997:
Try met with the top military brass in the morning: Commander of ABRI Feisal Tanjung, Army Chief of Staff Wiranto as well as the Navy Chief of Staff Arief Kushariadi, Air Force Chief of Staff Sutria Tubagus, and The Chief of Police Dibyo Widodo.

The officers reported that potential security threats were minimal and if there were any, these were quickly nipped at the bud by local units.

As the meeting was breaking up, Feisal went to Try and said that it was a confusing time for all when Soeharto died. But, Feisal pointed out, Minister of Research and Technology BJ Habibie was clear about the situation and sent Feisal to pledge his support to Try.

3rd December 1997:

Try met with Minister of Research and Technology BJ Habibie. On paper, the meeting was about matters in Habibie’s policy area but it provided Try a chance to take the temperature of one of the cabinet’s most prominent ministers.

Habibie was a German-educated aeronautics engineer but who also had the fortune of having Soeharto as a family friend. When Soeharto became president, he summoned Habibie back to serve the country; first as Technological Advisor to the President for 4 years and then for the last 20 years as minister of research and technology. Though he was formally the minister of research and technology, Soeharto made Habibie responsible for building the nation’s strategic industries which included the defense industry, the shipping industry, and the aeronautics industry.

Habibie was the man Soeharto used when he wanted to counterbalance ABRI’s power by embracing political Islam. In 1990, he became Chairman of the Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI) from where he controlled the nation’s foremost Islamic figures on behalf of Soeharto. In this regard and because of his involvement in the defense industry, Habibie was a political rival.

The conversation was relaxed once the business was out of the way and veered to the topic of where they had been when Soeharto had died.

“The Commander of ABRI came to me asking for advice. But I told him ‘You must go to the Vice President, he is your Supreme Commander now.’”, Habibie explained.

It was no surprise that Feisal went to Habibie first before going to Try. After all, Feisal was an ally of Habibie. But Try could only smile at the way Habibie was making it seem as though he owed his presidency to Habibie.

Habibie wanted to invite Try to the inauguration of a special Ministry of Research and Technology Project on 15th December but Try said he will be at the ASEAN Summit that day and would not be able to make it.

4th December 1997:

The President chaired his first cabinet meeting. After hearing reports from ministers about the currency crisis and implementation of the October LOI to the IMF and budget preparations, Try issued his instructions:

-On the currency crisis and implementation of the October LOI to the IMF: The October LOI must be implemented as best as possible in order to improve the present economic condition, improve the value of the Rupiah and show the government’s seriousness. Try said that no special privileges will be afforded because this is not in the national interest. The President said that nothing could be done about Bambang reopening his bank under a different name but instructs Attorney General Singgih to counter the lawsuit Probosutedjo is launching that the government must direct its efforts to prevent Probosutedjo’s bank to be reopened.

He also asks that no further appeals be made asking that the infrastructure projects which the former President had delayed in September be reinstated.

-On budget preparations: The draft budget will be delivered on 6th January 1998. The President asks for all government departments and agencies to cut spending in their sections, starting with doing away with unnecessary activities (seminars, projects, foreign study tours) and then moving on to actual projects. The target is a budget surplus of 1% of GDP.

As Try issued his instructions, he could see different reactions in his cabinet ministers’ faces. Everything from “There are people who will not be happy to hear about this” to “Finally, something is being done”. From one end of the table, Habibie looked on seriously.

The results of the cabinet meeting were immediately announced to the public. The foreign exchange market reacted positively, crawling up to Rp. 3,962= $1 by the end of the day.

At 8 PM that night, Try addressed the nation to explain the results of the cabinet meeting. Here are some excerpts of that address.

“My fellow Indonesians. Since the events of last week which led to my assumption of this office, this is the first time that I will be addressing you…

The crisis that our nation is going through arrived on our shores in August. In the 4 months that it has been here, it has wiped the value of our currency, left some of our brothers and sisters unemployed, and has threatened to undo the gains we have made in the past 3 decades under President Soeharto.

Now, more than ever, we need to mobilize our resources to battle this financial crisis. We need to do our part to tackle this financial crisis. Most importantly, we need to realize that we are all in this together.

Accordingly, in our efforts against this crisis, there can be no special privileges and no special treatments. Those who have benefited from their proximity to power in the past must now stand and play their part in his nation’s recovery.”

6th December 1997:

Try marked the end of his 1st week as president by attending Soeharto’s 1 Week Death Anniversary.

The President was going through a honeymoon period. Each day brought with it professions of support from various organizations and institutions whether in newspaper, on television, or in person. Monday was the turn of the United Development Party (PPP) and the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) to pledge their support to Try’s presidency. On Friday, it was the turn of the Armed Forces Veterans Associations who encouraged Try to nominate for a full term at the MPR General Session. Try was astonished but began thinking.

Even from Soeharto’s critics, there were positive responses. Megawati Sukarnoputri wished the best for Try while Nahdlatul Ulama’s (NU) Abdurrahman Wahid said that Try is a great man who will do the nation proud as president. Even Chairman of Muhammadiyah Amien Rais, who was one of Soeharto’s harshest critic, welcomed Try’s rise and said that “We are expecting great things from him”.

The public remained worried about the financial crisis and its continuing effect on their savings and their employment but seemed to have a sliver of hope. Try’s address to the nation, which has been dubbed the “We are all in this together” speech, had gone down well.

7th December 1997:

Try welcomed Gen. (ret.) Benny Murdani to the Presidential Palace. Benny was a former Commander of ABRI, former Minister of Defense and Security, and a loyal ally turned nemesis of Soeharto. It had been Benny’s idea nearly 5 years earlier that ABRI impose Try as a vice president on Soeharto and he had not expected Try to actually become president.

The President picked his mentor’s brain, especially with regards to the political map. Benny said that as positive as the steps Try is taking on the economy, whether or not Indonesia’s economy recovers will be decided in the next term of government, not this one. The next three months would only be the beginnings of a recovery, if even that.

“Are you saying that I should be a candidate for the presidency at the MPR Session?” asked Try.

“That will be up to you, Mr. President”, Benny said “The only other option is to pass the baton to someone else in 3 months and see them run the nation to the ground. And believe me there are plenty who would like to see you pass that baton to them.”

It is a lot for what is only a week's worth of activities, but there are a lot of activities that Try has to get through and, more importantly, introduce the people that will be his rivals.

The following is a link to the LOI signed by Soeharto in OTL. In the OTL it doesn't get implemented properly because Soeharto vacillates between doing the right thing of trying to restore confidence in the Indonesian economy and listening to his family members and cronies.
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My dads family lived in Jakarta during the Suharto era.

This could prove interesting.

I can help with some of the finer details if you want.
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3: Signals of Intent
3: Signals of Intent

9th-11th December 1997:

President Try Sutrisno along with Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas attends the Organization of Islamic Countries Summit in Tehran. Try’s attention was more on the home front, reading reports from home even as he was in the meeting room with other heads of state and government.

From the reports he notes:

-That the construction sector has slowed down and that companies who rely on imports to produce their goods are struggling.

-The private sector is struggling to pay its short term debt because the Rupiah’s loss in value, whether because it was time to pay the short term debt and because lack of confidence in the country is forcing foreign banks to ask for immediate payment of loans is doing damage to the economy.

12th December 1997:

Back in Jakarta, Try had a meeting with Minister of Defense and Security Edi Sudrajat. Edi was a close friend and had been Deputy Army Chief of Staff when Try was Army Chief of Staff between 1986-1988.

The two used the chance to shoot the breeze, with Edi urging Try to run for re-election as well. Try refuses to commit.

Try also had a meeting with Minister of Forestry Djamaluddin Suryohadikusumo and Minister of Environment Sarwono Kusumaatmadja. The two ministers report that as a result of forest fires as a result of out of control slash and burn practices, 176 logging and plantation companies had had their licenses temporarily revoked.

The two ministers report that some of these companies are asking for their licenses to be reinstated. Try said that the companies should show and implement some plans for replanting first then he will consider reinstating the licenses.

14th-16th December 1997:

Try attends the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This provided him with the opportunity to meet Southeast Asian Heads of States and Governments for the first time. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad of Malaysia and Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong of Singapore thanks Try for not allowing companies who have previously caused forest fires to restart their enterprises.

Images of Try attending two international summits in one week inadvertently highlights his youth and contrasts with the image of Soeharto looking old and tired as he flies on various state visits.

Try’s images were closely followed by that of Habibie’s on the news bulletin. On 15th December, Habibie rededicates the Center for Science and Technology Research in Serpong, West Java as the General Soeharto Center for Science and Technology Research. Habibie then goes on to deliver a eulogy for Soeharto, before vowing that he “Will finish what Soeharto had started.” He smiles and poses for pictures as the new building plaque was unveiled.

17th December 1997:

Harmoko visits Jakarta’s Tanah Abang markets to see how people are doing. He encounters people who have been laid off from work and are struggling as well as shopowners who are losing customers. Harmoko tells the media following him that markets are about people and that the solution to the crisis could not be found merely by appeasing markets.

18th December 1997:

Try attends the ABRI Academy (AKABRI) graduation ceremony in Magelang, Central Java. A portion of his address to the newly graduated cadets drew attention.

“If you were to ask me what life means, I would say that life means hard work, luck, and hard work again.

Every single step of my career, I worked hard. My luck was that my hard work was recognized by my superiors and I received a promotion. But then having been given a promotion, I had to work hard again.

The same holds true now. It was by luck that I became president but it will be hard work that will keep me in this position.”

In the socializing and mingling that came afer the ceremony, Try was approached by the Commander of the Special Forces Major General Prabowo Subianto. After some small talk, Prabowo asked Try if it would be possible for the Kopassus to purchase helicopters. Try promises Prabowo that he will consider it though he was taken aback at how straightforward he was. He brought it up with Commander of ABRI Feisal Tanjung and Army Chief of Staff Wiranto when talking to them. Feisal shrugged and said that it was “normal” for Prabowo to bypass the chain of command like that, especially when the former president was still alive. Wiranto muttered that something ought to be done about Prabowo.

19th December 1997:

Try approved of increases to the Land and Building Tax Rate for buildings over a certain price to increase revenue. He also revoked the National Car status held by Tommy Soeharto’s Timor Car Company meaning that Timor Cars would no longer be exempt from paying import duties.

The President told his economic team that they just went further than the LOI signed in October and tells them to use this, along with the fulfillment of the other policy measures as leverage to get more lenient terms from the IMF in January. “I’m not saying that we’re going to restore the National Car status. But we need to be able to have some room in the budget so we can have some smallscale infrastructure projects in there and employ some people as well as have social programs”, he said.

Governor of Central Bank J Soedrajad Djiwandono spoke about the monetary situation. He reports that he is continuing to tighten monetary policy to prevent capital from leaving the country. Regarding the currency, the Rupiah stabilized at the 3,850-3,900 range in the days after the “We are all in this together” speech.

But it slid with revelations that private sector companies are struggling to pay their debt, reaching 4,071 by the middle of the month. It slid to 4,123 after the opening of the Soeharto Center for Science and Technology Research and 4,149 after Harmoko’s speech. With a slight bounce to 4,138 after the President’s speech.

“I think the market wants certainty, Mr. President”, Ginandjar Kartasasmita said “If you were to declare your candidacy, it would help.”

“Believe me, when I’m a candidate, everybody will know”, Try replied. Ginandjar was the most skillful political-wise in the room and Try was not sure where Ginandjar’s loyalties lie.

Try paid his final respects to Coordinating Minister of Politics and Security Lt. Gen. (ret.) Soesilo Soedarman who died today. As he was about to depart back to the Presidential Palace, Moerdiono reminds him that this means there is a vacant cabinet spot. Try said that he will keep the position vacant.

20th December 1997:

President Try appointed Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Ari Sudewo as the new Chief of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (BAKIN). Sudewo was Chief of the ABRI Intelligence Agency (equivalent to the DIA) from 1991-1994. He was also Try’s second-in-command when he served as Commander of the Jakarta Military Command.

Try attends a Golkar Council of Patrons meeting. While the Chairman of Golkar leads a Central Executive Council, real power in Golkar belonged to the Council of Patrons and its chairman, a position which until last month was held by Soeharto. It was through this position that Soeharto exercised authority as the Leader of Golkar.

Now it was not clear who was in charge at Golkar. Habibie tried to tell the meeting what to do but it was Harmoko who took charge.

The meeting agreed on two things:

-By acclamation, Try Sutrisno will be Chairman of the Council of Patrons until the Golkar National Congress will be held in October 1998. Try thanked Golkar for the trust and asked for Golkar’s support for the remainder of the term.

-That given Soeharto’s passing, he would no longer be Golkar’s presidential candidate at the MPR Session.

Harmoko next moved to the issue of the presidential candidate. He suggested that avoid confusion, there ought to be a presidential candidate now. Harmoko was going through the criterion for Golkar’s presidential candidate and how they should enjoy the support of a majority of the MPR, when Try put up his hand.

“If at this time Golkar has no presidential candidate, we will make due”, Try said, “I’m sure that the presidential candidates will emerge in due course”, said the President. Habibie agreed to this and Harmoko backed down in the face of two opponents ganging up on him.

As the meeting broke, Habibie approached Try and thanked him for the intervention. “It is for the good of Golkar, and the nation, that we don’t force ourselves into having a candidate”, Try said diplomatically.

After Habibie left, Try asked Edi to come in the presidential vehicle with him. Edi did. He brought with him Sarwono Kusumaatmadja and Minister of Transmigration Siswono Yudohusodo, both of whom were also members of the Council of Patrons. Try asked them to come along. Try knew the two civilian ministers from cabinet, but it was the first time he saw them up close. Edi nodded to Try that they could be trusted. Try began talking about what had just happened.

Try laughed at Harmoko trying to weasel his way to Golkar’s presidential candidacy by claiming majority of the MPR. Siswono said that Harmoko was nowhere close to controlling the majority at the MPR. Sarwono piped in and that maybe Try should use his authority as Chairman of the Council of Patrons. Try said it doesn’t work like that. “They will all rise up against me if I make a naked bid towards re-election”, Try said.

“So you are making a bid towards re-election, just not a naked one”, said Edi.

Try would not be drawn.

23rd December 1997

Try chaired a meeting with the national security team: Minister of Home Affairs Yogie S. Memet, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Alatas, Minister of Defense and Security Edi Sudrajat, Minister of Justice Oetojo Oesman, Minister of Information Hartono, Commander of ABRI Feisal Tanjung, Attorney General Singgih, and Chief of BAKIN Ari Sudewo. Moerdiono also attended.

Try listens to the reports, particularly from the Minister of Home Affairs, the Minister of Defense and Security, and the Chief of BAKIN. The consensus from the meeting was that even though the security situation is manageable, if the economy continues to get worse then this will impact security especially with the 1998 MPR Session in March.

“My advice is that economic policy must be synchronized with security policy”, Hartono spoke.

Try had no love for Hartono. When he was Commander of ABRI and Hartono had been Commander of the East Java Regional Command, Hartono had defied Try and said that he took his orders from Soeharto only. Of course, that was the beginning of Hartono’s rise to prominence which culminated in the Army Chief of Staff’s position in 1995.

For the moment, he cursed at how there was a politician in the economic team in Ginandjar and another one in the national security team in Hartono.

“It’s the government’s policy that is keeping the security situation conducive”, defended Edi.

Try closed the meeting not long thereafter.

25th December 1997:

As the nation enjoyed a public holiday, Try assembled a meeting of close intimates. His guests on this day were:

-Gen. (Ret.) Edi Sudrajat, Minister of Defense and Security

-Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Ari Sudewo, Chief of BAKIN

-Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Harsudiono Hartas, a member of the Supreme Advisory Council and the man who had made the announcement nominating Try as Vice President in 1993.

-Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Sugeng Subroto, Departmental Secretary at the Department of Defense and Security and Edi’s second in command at the department.

After the requisite questioning about whether or not Try was going to run for re-election or not, the discussion turned serious.

Try asked if he were running for re-election, who would be his opponent. The four unanimously agreed that it would be Habibie. Sugeng explained The Minister of Research of Technology was the longest serving minister in cabinet and while it seemed unlikely that Soeharto was grooming him to be a successor, at the very least the vice presidency was going to be his.

Harsudiono said that don’t discount Harmoko either. He said that a Harmoko supporter was selling feelers out to him saying that perhaps Harmoko can support Try for re-election if Try would offer him the vice-presidency. Harsudiono adds that Harmoko doesn’t know about the overture because he is very strongly tempted to run for the presidency but his supporters only see him as a vice presidential candidate.

Sudewo spoke next. Whether Try will be running against one candidate or two, Golkar’s votes in the MPR will be divided. If Try wanted to be re-elected, he should start campaigning amongst MPR delegates. Consolidate with those who will vote for him and sway undecideds. There being 1,000 MPR delegates, the target Try should be striving for is 501.

Try listened carefully to his friends talk about the present political situation, asking follow up questions. One question Try asked was about how he was perceived among his rivals and the nation.

“Habibie is sure that you would not run for re-election and that you will complete the next three months in peace. If his exchange with you at the end of the Council of Patrons meeting is anything to go buy, perhaps he’s even hoping that you would facilitate him”, Edi Sudrajat replied “Harmoko is the one taking you seriously. He’s going to try to play the nationalist card and portray you as someone who is subservient to the IMF.”

“From the intelligence reports and analyses I’ve read, public sympathy is on your side”, Sudewo reported “They admire the way you’ve tackled the crisis. If you can match the rhetoric in ‘We are all in this together’ with some breakthroughs in the economy, those guys in the MPR have hell to pay if you are not re-elected.”

The key question for Try was how would he go about his re-election. When, for example, should he even announce his candidacy?

Harsudiono advised not too close to the MPR Session lest the other candidates have locked in the MPR delegates’ votes and not too far either or else he will become target practice.

Edi adds that there are three things Try should fulfill first before he announces his candidacy:

-Deliver the Draft Budget in front of the DPR (“A chance to look presidential and unveil a plan that will begin to kickstart recovery”).

-Conclude a revised agreement with the IMF (“You’re trying to obey every letter of every word in that IMF LOI and you’ve even gone further beyond. Getting some concessions from the IMF will win you points as a President that can get a good deal for Indonesia.”)

-Conduct a command shuffle of ABRI (“Make sure that when you go in there to face the MPR, it’s people you can trust who will have their hands on the muscle and the guns in the country.”)

Try thought to himself and could not help but think that the conversation was surreal. If someone told him at the beginning of 1997 that he would be president and now contemplating re-election he would have laughed.
I would think Dwifungsi would be still in effect at this time.

Also, the PDI are basically a shadow opposition, the real one being the PDI-P.
I would think Dwifungsi would be still in effect at this time.

Also, the PDI are basically a shadow opposition, the real one being the PDI-P.

Dwifungsi is most definitely still in effect at this time.

Also correct about the PDI and the PDI-P (Though PDI-P was not still not an official organization). Megawati is very much outside of the political system at the moment, having been overthrown as Chairperson of the PDI in 1996.

Well, I have no idea what's going on, but it is fascinating, and is making me dust my Indonesian history books.

Good job!

Hahahha, I hope you'll stay with the thread.

Do excuse the slow progress. I realize most would only be familiar with a very faint outline of what happened so I'm writing backstories and introducing characters in addition to writing about events which has occured.
Dwifungsi is most definitely still in effect at this time.
And the military reserved seats in Parliament, top public service positions staffed by military officers and social connections to the military continues.

Also, what is the status of Kostrad (the ABRI Strategic Command) under Try? According to what I read, Kostrad is basically the elite branch of the Indonesian Army and they get the best equipment.
And the military reserved seats in Parliament, top public service positions staffed by military officers and social connections to the military continues.

Also, what is the status of Kostrad (the ABRI Strategic Command) under Try? According to what I read, Kostrad is basically the elite branch of the Indonesian Army and they get the best equipment.

Right now, he hasn't gotten around to Kostrad. A good counterweight to Prabowo over at Kopassus, that's for sure but we'll see how things turn out. Kostrad (green beret) and Kopassus (Red beret) are the two elite units of the Indonesian Army. Kopassus, was commanded by Maj. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, Soeharto's son-in-law. Kostrad, was at this time, commanded by Lt. Gen. Soegiono. Soegiono was someone from Soeharto's immediate circle. He was Commander of the Paspampres (Presidential Bodyguards) prior to becoming Commander of Kostrad.

ABRI was of course by this stage so utterly dominated by Soeharto that he had former aide-de-camps (Wiranto, Chief of Police Dibyo Widodo, Air Force Chief of Staff Tubagus), Bodyguards (Deputy Army Chief of Staff Subagyo, Commander of Jakarta Military Command Sjafrie) and a son-in-law all over ABRI's top brass.

We'll get to Kostrad, other Army units, and its officers soon enough. That much I can guarantee.

Do or do not, there is no Try. :p

I was beginning to wonder when someone would start making puns about that. Though his name is pronounced Tree.