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Students from Indonesia expressed surprise and hope for the reform of their country following President Suharto’s announcement of his resignation Thursday.

“I am so happy. This is what we have been praying for,” said one student living in Tokyo, adding that she thinks new President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie “will choose the right people for his Cabinet, and solve the political unrest and economic instability.”

A 28-year-old Indonesian student from a private university in Tokyo said it is strange that people from his homeland have remained poor despite the country’s rich natural resources. “Once Suharto quits, successors will prosper, as was the case in the Philippines,” he said.

Another student, who has lived in Japan for 10 years, was more cautious, however. “Another dictatorship will take the place of this one if Suharto’s resignation is the only change. Fundamental changes need to take place in the political system,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Embassy in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, remained quiet behind closed gates. About 20 reporters and photographers gathered around a sign that read “Closed for Ascension Day,” and police directed visitors to try again today. After learning from reporters that Suharto had resigned, an Indonesian worker at the embassy said he had received “no communication in particular” from Indonesia since 10 a.m. Wednesday.

One embassy visitor, Luna Nakagawa, 46, a Tokyo resident of six years, came to the embassy with her nephew to help him apply for a work visa extension. “I’m so happy that Suharto resigned. Things will get better in Indonesia now. The army will protect the people — as it is meant to — instead of just the government,” she said with a big smile.

Nakagawa said she worries about her parents and brothers in Jakarta. “I call them often to see if they’re OK. I want to tape the news coverage here and send it to them,” she said.

Buadji Hadi, 49, who has been working as a construction worker in Nagano since January, came to the embassy to replace his water-damaged passport. He plans to leave in a week to see his wife and two children in Surabaja, about 700 km from Jakarta.

While Hadi said he’s happy Suharto has resigned, he said the country’s general instability seems to have made his family feel insecure. “They worry about whether I can come home,” he said.

At Tokyo’s Sophia University, a weekly study session on Indonesian culture turned into a celebration of Suharto’s resignation Thursday night, with nearly 60 Japanese and Indonesian students, teachers, and members of the media present.

Standing before a banner reading “From Suharto’s Resignation to Realizing Democracy,” several Indonesian students spoke to those gathered about their hopes for a reformed government. “Finally, we can begin a new life,” said Pujiono, 36, a graduate student in social engineering at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. “But it’s not all over,” he added. “There’s a long road ahead, and we’ll fight until the end.”

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