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APU Person of the Year -- Megawati Sukarnoputri

 

There were a few surprises. Jiang Zemin picked the relatively unknown Hu Jintao as his successor prompting people to ask "Who's Hu?"

In Nepal, King Gyanendra shocked the region by dismissing former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's government and temporarily taking power for himself. He eventually appointed his own personal pick as the new PM.

For those who don't remember, King Gyanendra was crowned after the tragic murder of his brother, King Birendra and his family. The official reports blamed then Crown Prince Dipendra, but many Nepalis remain unsure.

However Hu Jintao and King Gyanendra stole the headlines for only brief periods. The APU Person of the Year must be the most significant newsmaker in and from the Asia Pacific region throughout the year.

Our choice for 2002 has to be Indonesia's president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Indonesia faced great challenges over in 2002 including the Bali nightclub bombing. The al-Qaeda network is believed to have become very active in the region.

At the same time, Megawati was deeply involved in peace negotiations with the Aceh separatist movement. Rebels from this part of Indonesia have engaged the government in one of Southeast Asia's longest conflicts.

At press time, the news agencies reported that Megawati was in Bali to usher in the New Year by ringing a ceremonial gong. During the Christmas holiday, she sang carols in mostly Christian Papua, another province with its own separatist movement.

Indeed, Megawati has had to move from one problem area to another all year long. Maybe that's one reason she pulled out at the last minute from attending East Timor's independence celebrations.

The Bali new year festivities were held at Kuta beach, the site of the nightclub bombing attack. Only the day before, Indonesian police found a ton of the same fertilizer used in the Bali bombing on the island of Sulawesi far to the east.

Yet, supporters note that the president has been successful against tremendous odds. She managed to calm down the religious fighting in Maluku in addition to bringing the Aceh rebels to the table. And there's no sign that her popularity is dropping among Indonesia's masses.

The daughter of the man known as the "father of the nation" in Indonesia can only hope that the gong's sounding will chase away any bad luck for 2003. Maybe she longs for a quieter year. But for 2002, she is the solid choice for person of the year.