Fear and Loathing in Jakarta

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JAKARTA: It’s not much of a homecoming. President Suharto flew back to Indonesia Friday to find his capital in flames, more than 200 people dead in his shopping plazas, foreign businesses leaving town -- and treachery inside his own party. After four days of the worst rioting in Suharto’s 32-year reign, Kosgoro, one of the main pro-Suharto factions, issued a demand for their leader’s head. TIME correspondent John Colmey reports that Kosgoro is hoping to negotiate a peaceful settlement -- but as their statement makes clear, they’re prepared to spill a little blood. “If he won’t step down peacefully,” it read, “we must force him to leave.”

Which means Suharto may have to consider seriously his offer -- reported Thursday -- to step aside and become a “Pandito,” or sage. Not that he’s getting any closer to God just yet. His first moves to quell the chaos were to abandon the austerity measures, like gasoline price increases, that first caused unrest last week. The IMF won’t be too happy about that one. Then again, Jakarta’s entire IMF staff has just fled the ravaged city.