Frail though he is, Indonesia's new President Abdurrahman Wahid has wasted no time in setting out his agenda, and attempting to heal some of the wounds that have torn the country apart. He has acknowledged that one of his main tasks is to reduce the massive chasm between rich and poor. Without a fairer division of wealth, the social rifts will remain to foment unrest, and the country cannot be successfully rebuilt. Though there was primarily a racial component in the riots last May against ethnic Chinese during the fall of former president Suharto, the same flashpoint can be seen in all the seeming problems of ethnicity that divide one island from another. Before the President are some of the most daunting problems to confront any leader: a shattered economy, corruption and cronyism, and the necessity to restructure the administration so that the country has a transparent and accountable government which serves the people, and earns their trust. Crucially, he has to create a cabinet of like-minded allies, convince the restive elements in Aceh and the other provinces where the call for a break with Jakarta become ever more strident, that it is in their interests to accept his offer of autonomy, so that they have the opportunity to learn how to govern. With the example of East Timor before them, and a new and moderate president in power, independence factions elsewhere may think this is the moment to press their cause. In fact, the problems facing the Timorese are almost intractable. A people with no experience of running their province have to rebuild an utterly devastated homeland with no infrastructure, no constitution, no legal system, and nothing as yet to underpin the economy. Decades of daunting work face the East Timorese. There is no guarantee of success, although with the help of the international community and the determination of a free people able to shape their destiny, much can be achieved. But Mr Wahid also deserves help if he is to succeed in reconstructing the nation along fair and just lines. Aceh and other provinces would do well to hear what he has to offer, and see if it does not serve their interests best before they start on the difficult road to independence.