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Megawati Sukarnoputri, Indonesia's new president, has a mess on her hands. The economy is in tatters, regions are in revolt and the government has almost broken down. So what did Mrs. Megawati do the weekend before becoming president, as the political crisis reached its height? She went to see "Shrek," the animated movie about a friendly ogre.

That is typical of her detachment. Maybe she didn't want to seem to be grasping as the presidency came closer, or maybe she wanted to project an image of normalcy. But now Mrs. Megawati is president and needs to stop pretending that nothing is amiss. She has to move decisively on a number of fronts and demonstrate that she has the vision, capacity and authority to provide much-needed leadership for the world's fourth-largest country.

The first priority is her cabinet. She needs to be inclusive — her predecessor, Abdurrahman Wahid, was not — so that key political parties receive posts and some of the damage wrought by the power struggle between the legislative and executive branches can be repaired. She should make certain that the defense minister is a capable civilian who can ensure civilian control of the military. She needs a justice minister who is committed to legal reform and who can restore respect for the courts and an attorney general willing and able to show that neither army officers nor politicians are above the law. She also needs economic advisers who can steer the country through its debt crisis, banking problems and decentralization of fiscal authority.

The second priority is to demonstrate that she can move beyond her nationalist origins. One of the many mistakes Mr. Wahid made early in his presidency was to give Mrs. Megawati, as vice president, responsibility for the rebellion-wracked province of Papua, at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago, and for the Moluccan islands, where conflict has been raging for the last two years. Mrs. Megawati showed no aptitude for understanding or addressing the grievances in those regions. She will have to do better as president or face further outbreaks of violence and an increase in the more than one million citizens currently displaced from their homes.

She has to move quickly to show she will not be a pawn of the military officers who flocked to her party out of displeasure with Mr. Wahid. Mrs. Megawati's handling of the pro-independence rebellion in Aceh — an oil-rich province on Sumatra — will be crucial. In recent weeks, military commanders all but ignored Mr. Wahid and pressed ahead with a counterinsurgency offensive that has resulted in numerous executions and disappearances.

Last week, paramilitary police in Aceh arrested members of a negotiating team whose security the Indonesian government had guaranteed, effectively putting an end to dialogue. Many Acehnese fear that a Megawati presidency will mean open season on civilians. She should release the negotiators and those Acehnese imprisoned for peaceful advocacy of independence — and commit her government to finding a political and economic, rather than a military, solution.

President Megawati must also move forward with prosecutions for human rights violations in East Timor, Papua and Aceh. Nothing she has said or done indicates she has the remotest interest in doing so; indeed, she has publicly defended the East Timorese militia thug Eurico Gutteres — his force, together with soldiers, sacked the city of Dili after the pro-independence vote in 1999 — as a hero of national unity. She appointed him a youth leader of her party. But her closeness to the military might make a move toward formal indictments more feasible than it was for Mr. Wahid, and she could demonstrate her commitment to the rule of law by making one.

Restoring economic health is essential, and Mrs. Megawati has some capable advisers. Their ability to function will depend not only on the international economic environment but on how well a Megawati administration succeeds in handling regional conflicts, which are of direct concern to foreign investors. It will also depend on how she handles corruption. Some have compared Mrs. Megawati to Benazir Bhutto, not only because she inherited a political mantle from her father, but because her husband is a businessman of dubious repute. His behavior, as well as hers, is going to be under scrutiny.

Indonesia's new president has made a career out of standing by silently as her rivals self-destruct. Now she is going to have to set policies, based on sound analysis of the country's ills, and see that they are carried out. If she fails, it could be the nation, not the political opposition, that falls apart.

Sidney Jones is Asia Director for Human Rights Watch.

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