What the foreign papers are saying.
Jan. 14 1998 3:30 AM

The International Herald Tribune, in a front-page article from Singapore by Michael Richardson, reported that the fierce austerity programs being demanded of Asian countries by the International Monetary Fund "could ignite virulent anti-Americanism" and "create dangerous instability in Asia." But it was Asian leaders, not the Americans, who seemed for the moment to be taking the strain.


The South China Morning Post talked of "unprecedented diplomatic pressure" being imposed on the increasingly insecure President Suharto of Indonesia, who, it said, was awaiting further frantic, bossy telephone calls (following those he had already received from President Clinton and Prime Minister John Howard of Australia) from Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The Guardian of London devoted its editorial Monday to demanding Suharto's resignation.

The main editorial of the Manila Times was devoted, on the other hand, to congratulating the president of the Philippines, Fidel V. Ramos, for canceling a planned trip to Switzerland and Belgium. But the congratulations contained more than a hint of sarcasm. The trip would have been his 34th abroad during his 67 months in office, the newspaper said; and "[o]n every trip, the President--with the First Lady on occasion--brings with him at least a hundred official, security and personal staff, as befits the powers and responsibilities of his office."

That was not counting the inevitable "business delegation" composed of representatives of government-owned financial institutions and companies, the Manila Times added, pointing out that "every single presidential aide or factotum gets $2,000 in allowance for a trip," meaning "$200,000 going down the drain for allowances alone," on top of which there were the air fares, hotel bills, rented cars and communications equipment, phone bills, "etcetera."

"He [the president] might have thought ... that canceling his trip could send the wrong signals to the world that we are going under. Possibly so. Or worse, they might think we have slid down to utter poverty, we can't even finance our chief executive's voyages overseas," the newspaper continued.

"What, we poor? In the days of the Aquino administration, there was one official in fact who--to justify his purchase of electric massage pillows--had the temerity to say 'we are a rich country pretending to be poor.' For a long while it did seem like we, the people, were consigned to endure poverty, while our leaders wallowed in assumed wealth at our expense. The President has shown a fine example."

In the continuing Algerian crisis, the London Sunday newspaper the Observer made waves across Europe by claiming that "at least some of the massacres in Algeria are the work of the regime's military security force." "Two policemen seeking asylum in Britain told the Observer they took part in massacres and torture of defenceless civilians, under orders," the newspaper said. "The defectors said special forces disguised as 'fundamentalists' with beards and Muslim dress slaughtered entire families in the middle of the night."

In France, where the trouble in its former colony continued to occupy many newspaper-column inches, the principal Paris morning paper, the conservative Le Figaro, carried an interview with the leader of the Algerian Islamic party (FIS) that won the 1991 Algerian election, only to see the result quashed and its members jailed for five years. Abdelkader Hachani condemned the massacres as "crimes against humanity" and said that, by rejecting a political solution and refusing to protect the population, "the government bears a large part of the responsibility."

In its weekend edition, Le Monde carried a front-page article about "the incredible record of the South African prison system," from which 700 prisoners have escaped in the past two months alone. This was not so surprising, it said, when it was taken into account that, "according to official statistics, 10,000 public order officials have been charged with crimes and offences of various kinds since January 1996, and that, according to a recent opinion poll, the majority of South Africans no longer have either respect for or confidence in their police."