|Subject: Suharto Reports: Buried In State
Funeral As Thousands Mourn; Mass Killings and Other Rights Abuses
- Survivors describe mass killings under Indonesian dictator Suharto
- For opponents, Suharto's death does not dull anger
- Suharto was Indonesia's Pol Pot: Sukarno widow
- Rights group: Indonesia must probe Suharto abuses
Indonesia's Ex-Dictator Suharto Buried
By ANTHONY DEUTSCH Associated Press Writer
SOLO, Jan 28 (AP) - Former Indonesian dictator Suharto, a U.S. Cold War ally whose military regime killed hundreds of thousands of left-wing opponents, was buried Monday at a state funeral with full military honors as tens of thousands mourned.
Throngs of Indonesians lined the streets to watch a motorcade carry his body to the family mausoleum. Many sobbed and called out the name of the man whose three-decade rule, though harsh, brought stability and economic growth to Indonesia.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono led the ceremony, which began just before noon at the mausoleum near Suharto's hometown of Solo, some 250 miles east of the capital. After a reading of Suharto's military accomplishments, a shot was fired in his honor and Yudhoyono offered a salute.
"We offer his body to the motherland," Yudhoyono said. "His service is an example to us."
Islamic prayers were said and as his body was lowered, mourners tossed flower petals into his grave. A military band played a dirge.
Suharto died Sunday of multiple organ failure after more than three weeks on life support at a Jakarta hospital. He was 86.
Yudhoyono had already declared a week of national mourning and called on Indonesians "to pay their last respects to one of Indonesia's best sons."
"He was a great man," said Sumartini, 65, who came from a nearby village with her four children to watch the funeral procession. "His death touched us deeply."
Suharto loyalists, who run the courts, called for forgiveness and a clearing of his name. But survivors want those responsible for atrocities to be held accountable.
"I cannot understand why I have to forgive Suharto because he never admitted his mistakes," said Putu Oka Sukanta, who spent a decade in prison because of his left-wing sympathies.
Suharto was finally toppled by mass street protests in 1998 at the peak of the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.
His departure from office opened the way for democracy in this predominantly Muslim nation of 235 million people, and he withdrew from public life, rarely venturing from his comfortable Jakarta villa.
Suharto ruled with a totalitarian dominance that saw soldiers stationed in every village, instilling a deep fear of authority across this Southeast Asian archipelago that stretches across more than 3,000 miles.
Since being forced from power, Suharto had been in and out of hospitals after strokes caused brain damage and impaired his speech. Poor health -- and continuing corruption, critics charge -- kept him from court after he was chased from office.
The bulk of killings occurred in 1965-1966 when alleged communists were rounded up and slain during his rise to power. Estimates for the death toll range from a government figure of 78,000 to 1 million cited by U.S. historians Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr, who have published books on Indonesia's history.
During Indonesia's 1975-1999 occupation of East Timor, up to 183,000 people died due to killings, disappearances, hunger and illness, according to an East Timorese commission sanctioned by the U.N. Similar abuses left more than 100,000 dead in West Papua, according a local human rights group. Another 15,000 died during a 29-year separatist rebellion in Aceh province.
Suharto's five successors as head of state all vowed to end the graft that took root under his regime, yet it remains endemic at all levels of Indonesian society.
With the court system paralyzed by corruption, the country has not confronted its bloody past. Rather than put on trial those accused of mass murder and multibillion-dollar theft, some members of the political elite consistently called for charges against Suharto to be dropped on humanitarian grounds.
Some noted Suharto also oversaw decades of economic expansion that made Indonesia the envy of the developing world. Today, nearly a quarter of Indonesians live in poverty, and many long for the Suharto era's stability, when fuel and rice were affordable.
But critics say Suharto squandered Indonesia's vast natural resources of oil, timber and gold, siphoning the nation's wealth to benefit his cronies, foreign corporations and family like a mafia don.
Jeffrey Winters, associate professor of political economy at Northwestern University, said the graft effectively robbed "Indonesia of some of the most golden decades, and its best opportunity to move from a poor to a middle class country."
"When Indonesia does finally go back and redo history, (its people) will realize that Suharto is responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity in the 20th century," Winters said.
Those who profited from Suharto's rule made sure he was never portrayed in a harsh light at home, Winters said, so even though he was an "iron-fisted, brutal, cold-blooded dictator," he was able to stay in his native country.
Like many Indonesians, Suharto used only one name. He was born on June 8, 1921, to a family of rice farmers in the village of Godean in the dominant Indonesian province of Central Java.
When Indonesia gained independence from the Dutch in 1949, Suharto quickly rose through the ranks of the military to become a staff officer.
His career nearly foundered in the late 1950s, when the army's then-commander, Gen. Abdul Haris Nasution, accused him of corruption in awarding army contracts.
Absolute power came in September 1965 when the army's six top generals were murdered under mysterious circumstances, and their bodies dumped in an abandoned well in an apparent coup attempt against Sukarno, Indonesia's founding father who helped win independence from the Dutch. Suharto, next in line for command, quickly asserted authority over the armed forces.
What followed was a nationwide purge of suspected leftists, a campaign that stood as the region's bloodiest event since World War II until the Khmer Rouge established its gruesome regime in Cambodia a decade later.
Over the next year, Suharto eased out Sukarno, who died under house arrest in 1970. The legislature rubber-stamped Suharto's presidency and he was re-elected unopposed six times.
During the Cold War, Suharto was considered a reliable friend of Washington, which did not oppose his violent occupation of Papua in 1969 and the bloody 1974 invasion of East Timor. The latter, a former Portuguese colony, became Asia's youngest country with a U.N.-sponsored plebiscite in 1999.
President Bush sent his regrets over Suharto's death. "President Bush expresses his condolences to the people of Indonesia on the loss of their former president," said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House's National Security Council.
Even Suharto's critics agree his hard-line policies kept a lid on Indonesia's extremists and held together the ethnically diverse and geographically vast nation. He jailed without trial hundreds of suspected Islamic militants, some of whom later carried out deadly suicide bombings with the al-Qaida-linked terror network Jemaah Islamiyah after the attacks on the U.S. of Sept. 11, 2001.
Meanwhile, the ruling clique that formed around Suharto -- nicknamed the "Berkeley mafia" after the U.S. school they attended, the University of California, Berkeley -- transformed Indonesia's economy and attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment.
By the late 1980s, Suharto was describing himself as Indonesia's "father of development," taking credit for slowly reducing the number of abjectly poor and modernizing parts of the nation.
But the government also became notorious for unfettered nepotism, and Indonesia was regularly ranked as one of the world's most corrupt nations as Suharto's inner circle amassed fabulous wealth. The World Bank estimates 20 percent to 30 percent of Indonesia's development budget was embezzled during his rule.
Even today, Suharto's children and aging associates have considerable sway over the country's business, politics and courts. Efforts to recover the money have been fruitless.
Suharto's youngest son, Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, was released from prison in 2006 after serving a third of a 15-year sentence for ordering the assassination of a Supreme Court judge. Another son, Bambang Trihatmodjo, joined the Forbes list of wealthiest Indonesians in 2007, with $200 million from his stake in the conglomerate Mediacom.
State prosecutors accused Suharto of embezzling about $600 million via a complex web of foundations under his control, but he never saw the inside of a courtroom. In September 2000, judges ruled he was too ill to stand trial, though many people believed the decision stemmed from the lingering influence of the former dictator and his family.
In 2007, Suharto won a $106 million defamation lawsuit against Time magazine for accusing the family of acquiring $15 billion in stolen state funds.
The former dictator told the news magazine Gatra in a rare interview in November 2007 that he would donate the bulk of any legal windfall to the needy, while he dismissed corruption accusations as "empty talk."
Suharto's wife of 49 years, Indonesian royal Siti Hartinah, died in 1996. The couple had three sons and three daughters.
Associated Press writers Zakki Hakim and Niniek Karmini contributed to this report.
Survivors describe mass killings under Indonesian dictator Suharto
By ANTHONY DEUTSCH Associated Press Writer
BLITAR, Jan 28 (AP) - Hiding out in the dense, humid jungle, Markus Talam watched Indonesian soldiers herd manacled prisoners from trucks, line them up and mow them down with round after round of automatic weapons fire.
It was 1968, and the killings were part of a final offensive by forces under Gen. Suharto to wipe out the communist party and secure his position as leader of Indonesia, now the world's most populous Muslim nation.
"They gunned them down and dumped their bodies in a mass grave dug by other prisoners. I remember the sound of the guns clearly: tat-tat, tat-tat, tat-tat ... over and over again," said Talam, 68, who was later jailed for 10 years after being named a leftist sympathizer.
Suharto, who died on Sunday at a Jakarta hospital, seized control of the military in 1965 and ruled the country for 32 years, suppressing dissent with force and supported by an American government at the height of the Cold War.
Estimates for the number killed during his bloody rise to power -- from 1965 to 1968 -- range from a government figure of 78,000 to 1 million cited by U.S. historians Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr, who have published books on Indonesia's history. It was the worst mass slaughter in Southeast Asia's modern history after the Khmer Rouge killing fields in Cambodia.
A frenzy of anti-communist violence stained rivers with blood and littered the countryside with the bodies of teachers, farmers and others.
"They used to dump the bodies here," recalled Surien, a 70-year-old woman who lived near a bay used as an execution ground. "People called it the beach of stinking corpses because of the smell."
The CIA provided lists of thousands of leftists, including trade union members, intellectuals and schoolteachers, many of whom were executed or sent to remote prisons.
Another 183,000 died due to killings, disappearances, hunger and illness during Indonesia's 1975-1999 occupation of East Timor, according to an East Timorese commission sanctioned by the U.N. Similar abuses left more than 100,000 dead in West Papua, according a local human rights group. Another 15,000 died during a 29-year separatist rebellion in Aceh province.
In recent interviews around the city of Blitar, a former communist stronghold, survivors of the atrocities recounted a life on the run, living in caves, being beaten and beheadings of other captives.
"I am disappointed. I saw great cruelties and am lucky I am not dead," said Talam, whose simple two-room home overlooks a valley dotted with overgrown mass graves.
Dragging on a clove-cigarette with trembling hands, he described how he was detained by police but escaped. He stumbled across dead bodies in shallow graves and slept in dank caves with hundreds of others, eating what the jungle had to offer for 50 days, until being picked up.
Talam, a former member of a left-wing union for park rangers, said he was tortured and beaten repeatedly during interrogations while detained on remote Buru island, where about 12,000 political prisoners were held, 1,770 kilometers (1,100 miles) east of the capital, Jakarta. "Why has no one been put on trial?" he asked.
In fact, the dark era remains largely unknown to many Indonesians. Those believed responsible still wield influence in politics and the courts. Details of the communist purge are banned from school books, and the military has blocked efforts by relatives to unearth mass graves.
Near Blitar, a prominent monument and museum honors the crushing of the communist threat, and the Communist Party is still banned in Indonesia today.
There is no official record of the shootings Talam said he witnessed by the Indonesian army near Blitar, which lies 500 kilometers (310 miles) east of Jakarta.
Though Suharto was swept from power in a 1998 pro-democracy uprising in this nation of 235 million people, no one has ever been tried for the bloodletting, in part because some of Suharto's former generals remain in powerful posts today.
"One of the enduring legacies of Suharto's regime has been the culture of impunity," said Brad Adams, the head of Human Rights Watch Asia.
Moreover, public interest in reviving a turbulent past is muted in the largely poor country, where people are more concerned with day-to-day survival, said Putmuinah, an 80-year-old former communist city council member in Blitar.
"The ones who should be held accountable for those crimes are Suharto, his government and his regime," she said. "Suharto ordered the elimination of communists and left-wing sympathizers."
Putmuinah hid in a cave south of Blitar before being picked up and detained for 10 years. "They robbed me of the opportunity to raise my seven children," she said.
"They beheaded many of us because we were members of the union for women," she added. "I was spared torture because I knew the commander who arrested me."
Suharto's regime capitalized on existing tensions between Muslims and atheist communists, inciting the nation's powerful Islamic groups to join the purge.
Hasyim Asyhari, 67, a former member of a conservative Sunni Islamic youth group in the Blitar region, said the group received army orders to identify, hunt down and kill communists.
He said he is proud of saving the nation from communist domination and helping "turn communist sympathizers into good Muslims."
"We used farm tools, daggers and clubs" to kill prisoners, Asyhari said in an interview. "I followed the orders of the government."
Associated Press reporter Irwan Firdaus in Jakarta contributed to this report.
For opponents, Suharto's death does not dull anger
JAKARTA, Jan 27 (AFP) -- The death Sunday of Indonesia's autocratic former president Suharto has not dulled the anger of his political opponents, who see his demise as a missed opportunity to bring him to justice.
For them, including many who were thrown into prison for dissent, time has failed to heal the wounds of Suharto's three decades of repressive rule.
"His death is a tragedy for all the victims of his crimes, they will never get justice," said Budiman Sudjatmiko, who was jailed as a student under the Suharto regime and now works for the People's Democratic Party of Struggle.
The 86-year-old former president, who stepped down in 1998, was accused of many crimes -- among them, the mass killing of over half a million suspected communists in 1965-66.
He and his family also left a legacy of massive corruption, bleeding up to 35 billion dollars out of the Indonesian economy, according to the anti-graft watchdog Transparency International.
As head of the army's Kostrad elite forces, Suharto led a campaign against the then-powerful Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and suspected sympathisers shortly after a failed 1965 coup attempt blamed on communists.
The ensuing violence across the country is acknowledged -- mostly outside Indonesia -- as one of the worst mass killings of the 20th century.
"This is the mother of all crimes against humanity. Suharto was never held accountable, he was even praised as a hero," Sudjatmiko said.
"Count in his corruption then he is a perfect criminal -- he can be put up there with Pol Pot and Hitler."
Sudjatmiko lamented Suharto's passing as a second lost opportunity, saying he could also have been brought to trial in the reform era that followed his resignation in 1998.
Carmel Budiardjo, the British-based founder of Tapol, an organisation which advocates human rights in Indonesia, described Suharto's demise as "the death of a tyrant."
"The political elite don't see the need for justice," Budiardjo told AFP.
But, she added, "there are people who will feel like I feel, that he died without facing justice. I only hope the obituaries will highlight what he did during his reign."
Budiardjo, a British citizen, said she was locked up for three years from 1968 in a women's prison in Bukit Duri, Jakarta, because of her connection to an academic discussion group.
Under Suharto, intellectuals were frequently jailed after being accused of links to the PKI.
Fadjroel Rachman, who heads a non-governmental organisation called Suharto Inc. Busters that worked to bring him to trial for graft, followed up his own expressions of condolences to Suharto's family with a call that "legal action against his cronies, families and loyalists should continue."
Rachman, who was jailed for defamation as a student during Suharto's rule, cited the 1975 invasion of East Timor and military crimes during the bloody separatist war in Aceh province as abuses for which victims of his regime are still seeking justice.
Investigative journalist and activist Andreas Harsono vividly remembers as a teenager watching the president's military police shoot a young boy in the street in a bid to reduce petty crime.
"He did not hesitate to take the law into his own hands to solve the problem. The question is: did he solve the problem? Of course not," Harsono said.
Harsono said as a journalist he experienced first hand the suppression of the media by Suharto's regime.
"In the future people will praise him, people will call him the 'father of development', people will deny that he was even involved in fascist activities, in killings and suppressing our freedoms, because he has never been tried," Harsono said.
Suharto was Indonesia's Pol Pot: Sukarno widow
TOKYO, Jan 28 (AFP) -- The Japanese widow of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno said Monday she would never forgive his successor Suharto, likening him to Pol Pot for his repression.
Suharto seized power from Sukarno in 1965-66 and ruled with an iron fist for another three decades. Suharto was buried Monday in a state funeral in central Java after a long illness.
"I don't want to lash out at a dead man but I cannot forgive Suharto," Ratna Sari Dewi Sukarno, Sukarno's third wife, told AFP.
"He was Indonesia's Pol Pot," she said, referring to the late leader of Cambodia's genocidal Khmer Rouge.
Dewi, a former bar hostess born as Naoko Nemoto, married Sukarno at age 19 in 1962 after he was charmed by her on a state visit to Tokyo.
After Sukarno died under house arrest in 1970, she returned to Japan where she has become a television personality and runs a jewellery and cosmetics business.
Despite Indonesia's economic progress under Suharto, his tenure was marked by repression, from the killings of at least half a million communists and their sympathisers from 1966 to invading East Timor and quelling separatist movements in Aceh and Papua.
Dewi blamed Suharto both for the death of her husband -- "the man who declared independence and became Indonesia's first president" -- and for the mass killings around the country.
"Although he had a soft face, he could be cruel and heartless at the same time," said Dewi, who met Suharto several times.
"You could not tell what he was like on the inside. What he said and what he did were two different things," she added.
Suharto also left a legacy of corruption, bleeding up to 35 billion dollars out of the Indonesian economy, according to the anti-graft watchdog Transparency International.
"Even today, many Indonesians suffer from that legacy and the income gap continues to widen," Dewi said.
She scolded Suharto for not making court appearances late in his life to answer corruption charges, citing illness.
"He ended his life living among friends," she said. "I think he was a very lucky man."
Rights group: Indonesia must probe Suharto abuses
NEW YORK, Jan 27 (AFP) -- A leading human rights group urged Indonesia to investigate violent crimes committed by the regime of former dictator Suharto, calling for its victims to be remembered after his death on Sunday.
"Suharto has gotten away with murder -- another dictator who's lived out his life in luxury and escaped justice," said Brad Adams, Asia director of the New York-based monitor Human Rights Watch (HRW), in a statement released here.
"But many of Suharto's cronies are still around, so the Indonesian government should take the chance to put his many partners in human rights abuse on trial," he said, after the ex-president died at 86 from long illness.
The group accused his regime of torture, massacres of minorities and alleged communists, and of war crimes in provinces including former Indonesian-ruled East Timor, which won independence in 1999 after violent upheaval.
Many in Indonesia saw Suharto as the father of development, as he steered the sprawling archipelago nation through an economic boom. But HRW accused him of fostering corruption instead of helping the poor.
Suharto left power in 1998, rocked by deadly riots and mass pro-democracy protests triggered by the Asian economic crisis, after billions of dollars ended up in the hands of his friends and relatives.
He avoided being made to answer charges of human rights abuse and massive corruption, due to ill health.
His death "provides an opportunity to commemorate the many victims of his oppressive regime," said HRW, which documents human rights abuses around the world.
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