INDONESIA: Child's Play

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Nothing ever works quite the way it should in Indonesia. Scarcely had the red and white flags been put up to celebrate the nation's 15th independence day last week when workmen were back in the streets of Djakarta. Their task: to take down 12-ft.-high poster portraits of Guinea's President Sekou Toure and Egypt's Vice President Abdel Hakim Amer, both of whom had reneged, without notice, on promises to put in an appearance at the independence-day festivities.

Undaunted by these snubs, Indonesia's volatile President Sukarno went right on to celebrate the holiday with a 54-page speech entitled "Like an Angel That Strikes from the Skies." To some of his countrymen, 54 pages seemed scarcely enough to explain recent events in In donesia. In the past year, Sukarno's breezy decision to freeze all bank accounts over $2,000 and devalue Indonesia's currency by 75% had produced a 92% increase in the amount of paper money in circulation and a 22% jump in retail prices. By driving 2,500,000 Chinese, mostly small shopkeepers and their families, out of In donesia's villages, he had involved the nation in a bitter feud with Red China. Then, too, there was the knotty question of Presidential Regulation No. 5, which prohibits public criticism of any Sukarno decree until the would-be critic obtains a license from the proper authorities. (So far there have been no applicants.)

Ever Unanimous. But Sukarno, who plays at government the way a child might play at Monopoly, chose to ignore such mundane matters.

Instead, he sang the praises of the hand-picked "Mutual Help" Assembly with which he has replaced Indonesia's former elected Parliament and glowed over the new National Front, a "nonpolitical" movement consisting of Sukarno's own Nationalist Party, the inept Moslem Teacher's Party and the dazed Communists, who find Sukarno even more disruptive than they are. The National Front, Sukarno predicted, would always reach unanimous agreement on everything "without taking votes." Then, as a lesson to those who still thought there might be something in voting, he abruptly announced a ban against two of Indonesia's remaining anti- Communist political parties: the Moslem Masjumi and the Socialist Party.

Keep 'Em Roaring. All this left the crowd in front of Djakarta's handsome Merdeka Palace uncommonly apathetic. But like the skilled spellbinder he is. Sukarno finally got his audience roaring with a burst of demagogic thunder in which he attacked The Netherlands for sending an aircraft carrier and 1,000 troop reinforce ments to neighboring Dutch New Guinea — which Sukarno claims is part of Indo nesia and properly called "West Irian." Sneering at The Netherlands as a "country of small creditors that still preserves its taste for colonialism," Sukarno wound up by announcing the breaking off of diplo matic relations with the Dutch. In The Netherlands, his oratory was received with a shrug. After nationalizing Dutch property in Indonesia, driving out more than 90.000 Dutch residents and daily threatening ruin for the 4,000 who remain, Sukarno's snapping of diplomatic relations seemed a bit of an anticlimax.