The Ikeya-Seki comet appeared on Indonesia's eastern horizon early one morning last October. From the base of the volcano Agung, navel of creation and home of the Great Gods, the mystic prophets of the island of Bali watched it streak through the sky for ten days and were alarmed. It was an omen, they warned, of much death and change of government in the land.
The prophecy was all too accurate. Amid a boiling bloodbath that almost unnoticed took 400,000 lives, Indonesia, the sprawling giant of Southeast Asia, has done a complete about-face. It changed not only its government but its political direction, fundamentally, radically and unexpectedly. President Sukarno, after 20 years of egotistical misrule, has been stripped of almost everything but his palaces and women. A new regime has risen, backed by the army but scrupulously constitutional and commanding vociferous popular support. "Indonesia is a state based on law not on mere power," says its new leader, a quietly determined Javanese general whose only name is Suharto.
Under Suharto, the nation that last year was a virtual Peking satellite has become a vigorous foe of Red China. It has called off its senseless, undeclared war against Malaysia and revived its friendships with other neighbors. It has halted the economy-wrecking prestige projects that Sukarno so dearly loved. And in an orgy of flashing knives and coughing guns, it has virtually wiped out the Partai Komunis Indonesia (P.K.I.) which under Sukarno had grown to be the third largest Communist Party in the world.
The Yellow Jackets. Last week in Djakarta, the fall of Sukarno was made complete. Gone were the giant billboards that once portrayed him as a people's hero kicking Uncle Sam in the tail. Instead, the city's fences and walls were covered with neatly scrawled slogans such as "Go to Hell, Marxism." Gone were the Communist mobs that had made the U.S. embassy their favorite battleground, gone too the armed youth cadres that had marched daily through Djakarta, singing America, Satan of the World. Demonstrators still surged through the streets, but they wore the yellow jackets of the Anti-Communist Students Action Command, and the song they sangto the tune of Michael Row the Boat Ashorewas "Sukarno should be pensioned off."
The most dramatic scene of all was in the Moscow-built Bung Karno Sports Palace. There, under the silent, smiling gaze of General Suharto, the Provisional People's Consultative Congress had been in session since the middle of June to put the final seal of legality on the great change. It had already confirmed Suharto's authority to act "on behalf of" Sukarno. Last week, without a dissenting voice, it revoked Sukarno's authority to issue decrees in his own name. It also formally outlawed any form of Marxism, approved Suharto's moves to end the Malaysia conflict and his decision to reapply for membership in such world organizations as the United Nations, which Bung Karno had contemptuously abandoned. Then, in the unkindest cut of all, the Congress stripped the Bung of his lifetime presidency and ordered national elections within two years.