Subject: Suharto's Obituaries (AP, NYT, WP, RT)


- WP: Ex-Indonesian Dictator Suharto Dies

- NYT: Suharto, Former Indonesian Dictator, Dies at 86

- Reuters: Obituary-Ex-strongman Suharto leaves controversial legacy

- Kyodo - Suharto's Legacy: A Nation Without Justice


Disgraced and vilified, Indonesia's ex-dictator Suharto dies

By ANTHONY DEUTSCH Associated Press Writer

JAKARTA, Jan 27 (AP) - Former dictator Suharto, an army general who crushed Indonesia's communist movement and pushed aside the country's founding father to usher in 32 years of tough rule that saw up to a million political opponents killed, died Sunday of multi-organ failure. He was 86.

Suharto had been ailing in a hospital in the capital since Jan. 4 when he was admitted with failing kidneys, heart and lungs.

Dozens of the country's best doctors prolonged his life for three weeks through dialysis and a ventilator, but he lost consciousness and stopped breathing on his own late Saturday.

A statement issued by chief presidential doctor, Marjo Subiandono, said he was declared dead at 1:10 p.m.

Finally toppled by mass street protests in 1998, the U.S. Cold War ally's departure 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 villa on a leafy lane in the capital.

Suharto had ruled with a totalitarian dominance that saw soldiers stationed in every village, instilling a deep fear of authority across this Southeast Asian nation of some 6,000 inhabited islands that stretch across more than (4,825 kilometers) 3,000 miles.

Since being forced from power, he had been in and out of hospitals after strokes caused brain damage and impaired his speech. Blood transfusions and a pacemaker prolonged his life, but he suffered from lung, kidney, liver and heart problems.

Suharto was vilified as one of the world's most brutal rulers and was accused of overseeing a graft-ridden reign. But poor health -- and continuing corruption, critics charge -- kept him from court after he was chased from office by widespread unrest at the peak of the Asian financial crisis.

The bulk of political killings blamed on Suharto occurred in the 1960s, soon after he seized power. In later years, some 300,000 people were slain, disappeared or jailed in the independence-minded regions of East Timor, Aceh and Papua, human rights groups and the United Nations say.

Suharto's successors as head of state -- B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman Wahid, Megawati Sukarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono -- vowed to end corruption that took root under Suharto, 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 (euro) 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 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 added.

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. Suharto, next in line for command, quickly asserted authority over the armed forces and promoted himself to four-star general.

Suharto then oversaw a nationwide purge of suspected communists and trade unionists, 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. Experts put the number of deaths during the purge at between 500,000 and 1 million.

Over the next year, Suharto eased out of office Indonesia's first post-independence president, 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 didn't 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.

Even Suharto's critics agree his hard-line policies kept a lid on Indonesia's extremists. He locked up hundreds of suspected Islamic militants without trial, some of whom later carried out deadly suicide bombings with the al-Qaida-linked terror network Jemaah Islamiyah after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S.

Meanwhile, the ruling clique that formed around Suharto -- nicknamed the "Berkeley mafia" after their American university, 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 US$200 million (euro136 million) from his stake in the conglomerate Mediacom.

Suharto's economic policies, based on unsecured borrowing by his cronies, dramatically unraveled shortly before he was toppled in May 1998. Indonesia is still recovering from what economists called the worst economic meltdown anywhere in 50 years.

State prosecutors accused Suharto of embezzling about US$600 million (euro408 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 really stemmed from the lingering influence of the former dictator and his family.

In 2007, Suharto won a US$106 million (euro71.7 million) defamation lawsuit against Time magazine for accusing the family of acquiring US$15 billion (euro10.2 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.


The Washington Post Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ex-Indonesian Dictator Suharto Dies

By Ellen Nakashima Washington Post Foreign Service

JAKARTA -- Suharto, who in 32 years of authoritarian rule of Indonesia turned one of Asia's largest and poorest countries into a fast-growing tiger economy, has died. He was 86.

Suharto rose from poor farmer's son to five-star army general, then president, a man of quiet determination who came to believe in his own indispensability, historians say. His strong anti-communism made him a close U.S. ally for much of his rule.

He was forced from office in 1998 when military officers and political allies abandoned him in the face of massive street protests over corruption, represssion and a financial panic that stalled the country's advance toward affluence.

During his long rule, Indonesians rarely saw him or heard him speak, knowing him mainly as the face in portraits that hung in offices throughout the country.

He died without being held formally to account for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians during anti-communist purges of 1965-66. His claims of ill health, backed by a Supreme Court ruling, shielded him from prosecution on charges of embezzling almost $600 million during his presidency.

As Indonesia passes through turbulent transition toward democratic government, many people here express a nostalgia for the Suharto days as a peaceful time when rice was plentiful and beggars few. Economists generally credit him with cutting poverty from almost 60 percent to 15 percent by 1990 in his huge country, an amalgamation of 17,000 islands and 700 ethnic groups and that today has a population of 245 million, the world's fourth-largest.

"He led Indonesia out of a period of economic chaos into relative prosperity," said Robert Cribb, a historian at Australian National University. On the other hand, Cribb said, he "crippled Indonesia's public life."

Suharto was born in a poor village in central Java on June 8, 1921, when Indonesia was a Dutch colony. He was the only child of a farming couple who divorced shortly after he was born.

In 1940, he joined the colonial Royal Netherlands East Indies Army and studied at a Dutch-run military academy. In the military, biographers say, he found camaraderie, stability and opportunity that he had lacked as a youth.

In 1942, after Japanese imperial forces invaded and overturned Dutch rule, he joined a Japanese police force and militia. The occupiers' nationalist and militarist bushido philosophy would deeply influence Suharto.

Two days after the Japanese surrender in 1945, nationalist leaders Sukarno and Mohammed Hatta declared independence for Indonesia. Hostilities broke out between Indonesian fighters and Dutch forces seeking to reassert colonial control. Suharto gained acclaim for his efforts in fighting the Dutch.

The Dutch left in 1949 and Suharto began a long rise in the armed forces of the newly independent state, which Sukarno ran as president. By 1965, as Sukarno's health was failing, Suharto found himself at the head of the Army's elite Strategic Reserves Command.

The general's ascent to the presidency began on October 1, 1965, the date of a still mysterious alleged coup against Sukarno.

In the official version of events that day, promoted by Suharto and until recently the only version taught to Indonesian school children, junior army officers with ties to the Communist Party of Indonesia kidnapped and killed six top generals. That was said to be the first stage of a larger plot in which most of the Communist Party's three million members would rise up to seize power and kill their opponents.

Opposing theories variously blame the generals' killings on Suharto, Sukarno and the CIA. But many historians say the most plausible explanation is that officers allied with the Communist Party kidnapped the politically conservative generals in an effort to shift Sukarno's government further toward the communists, but did not expect resistance that the prisoners put up and ended up killing them.

Whatever the facts, national mayhem ensued and Suharto assumed command of the army. In following months, as many as a million Communists and alleged sympathizers were killed by soldiers, militias and civilians in one of the worst political mass murders of the twentieth century. Class-based divisions stoked by a land redistribution policy embraced by Sukarno brought out ethnic and sectarian tensions. Muslims killed non-Muslims, plantation owners killedlabor union members, and landowners killed peasants.

Though no evidence has surfaced that Suharto directly ordered the killings, he is known to have sent the army into some regions where killings took place on a large scale. "He also made it clear that those who killed Communists would not be punished," Cribb said. "So suddenly people who hated Communists for some reason realized they had impunity."

As the violence continued, inflation reached 600 percent. Farm production was disrupted and people in some areas began to starve. Indonesia, once described by Sukarno as a "nation of coolies and a coolie among nations," reached a nadir.

Suharto assumed formal power as president in March 1966. Signalling a break from Sukarno's policies, he called his rule the New Order. With the violence dying down, he embarked on an ambitious program to reverse Indonesia's economic decline.

Relying on five U.S.-trained economists -- three of them earned doctorates from at the University of California -- he imposed new policies aimed at attracting foreign investment. The so-called "Berkeley mafia" advocated a balanced budget, market-driven economics and a limited government role.

Suharto channeled burgeoning revenues from Indonesian oil fields into roads, bridges and airports. Growth averaged 7 and 8 percent a year. A family planning program built around the slogan "two is enough" sent the birth rate plummeting.

By 1985, Suharto, whose face appeared on billboards with the title the "Father of Development," was able to declare that Indonesia was self-sufficient in rice, its main staple. Near-universal enrollment for primary school grades was achieved by 1990. In that year, only 15 percent of Indonesians were living below official poverty lines, up from 60 percent in 1970.

But with rising wealth came a vast parallel economy of patronage and undeclared assets. Though the technocrats were able to institute market reforms, they were unable to rein in the six Suharto children and their father's business cronies.

Just as Imelda Marcos and her shoe collection came to symbolize the greed of the Ferdinand Marcos years in the Philippines, the Suharto children became symbols of the New Order's excesses. Rare was the road project or petrochemical plant deal that did not have a Suharto son or daughter as the local agent.

His wife Tien was commonly known as "Madam Ten Percent," for the cut she allegedly demanded from new projects. Bribes often flowed in the form of donations to charitable foundations controlled by the Suharto family.

Economist Adam Schwarz calls the New Order's corruption a symptom of an "institutional vacuum." Courts were not independent. Strict press curbs silenced most critics. All but three political parties were outlawed, and large political gatherings were banned.

And above it all presided Suharto. He came to see himself as the figurative father of the country, said Indonesian historian Taufik Abdullah. He was no Sukarno, a charismatic ladies' man whose speeches stirred passion. Suharto, Abdullah noted, was "like an uncle." Javanese in character, he stressed correct behavior, worked hard and avoided dramatic displays of emotion.

Across a country spanning more than 3,000 miles east to west, Suharto imposed a highly centralized government, backed by a powerful military. He created new towns and engineered vast internal migrations aimed at easing overpopulation, but which also contributed to social strife, Abdullah noted. In 1975, his armed forces annexed East Timor, a former Portuguese colony, setting off a long guerrilla war.

Suharto's anti-Communist rhetoric and clear turn away from Sukarno's polices made him a useful ally for the United States during the Cold War. The United States maintained close relations with the Indonesian military from the 1970s to the early 1990s, engaging its officers in training and support programs, despite allegations of human rights abuses by the military in provinces such as East Timor and Papua. It was only after the Santa Cruz massacre of 1991 in East Timor that the U.S. cut most military ties. They were restored only in November 2005.

The technocrats' economic program was also welcome in Washington, which responded with large amounts of aid.

To maintain a veneer of democracy, Suharto ran for election before an electoral college every five years. His Golkar party was preordained to win.

What ultimately brought Suharto down was the weakness of the political system he created and hubris-- "a grossly inflated sense of his own popularity," Schwarz wrote in his book, A Nation in Waiting.

The financial panic that swept Indonesia and other Asian countries in 1997 exposed long-brewing tensions. Students, workers and members of the middle class, many of them educated and prosperous thanks to Suharto's innovations, began to protest rising prices, corruption and lack of civil liberties.

By early 1998, the Indonesian currency, the rupiah, was in freefall. Foreign investors fled. Suharto, believing he could weather this storm, too, ignored the prescriptions of an International Monetary Fund bailout package.

In May 1998, security forces shot and killed four student protesters at a Jakarta university, sparking the worst rioting ever seen in the capital. More than 1,000 people were killed.

Shortly before midnight on May 20, 1998, a lone advisor gave Suharto the news that no one, save the advisor, was willing to serve in Suharto's cabinet. The economic ministers, the politicians, even the generals had deserted him. "Well, that's it, then," Suharto replied, according to A Nation in Waiting. The next morning, he announced his resignation.

Suharto lived out his days in relative isolation in a house in an upscale Jakarta neighborhood. He is survived by his six children.


The New York Times Monday, January 28, 2008

Suharto, Former Indonesian Dictator, Dies at 86


Suharto of Indonesia, whose 32-year dictatorship was one of the most brutal and corrupt of the 20th century, died Sunday in Jakarta. He was 86.

Mr. Suharto was driven from office in 1998 by widespread rioting, economic paralysis and political chaos. His rule was not without accomplishment; he led Indonesia to stability and nurtured economic growth. But these successes were ultimately overshadowed by his pervasive and large-scale corruption; repressive, militarized rule; and a convulsion of mass bloodletting when he seized power in the late 1960s that took at least 500,000 lives.

As the leader of one of the world’s most populous countries, Mr. Suharto and his family became notorious for controlling state enterprises and taking kickbacks for government contracts, for siphoning money from state charities and for committing gross violations of human rights.

Yet Mr. Suharto remained virtually untouchable to the end, even as his successors in a new democratic system repudiated his rule. He was never charged with the killings committed under his command, and managed to escape criminal prosecution for embezzling millions of dollars, possibly billions, by having himself declared mentally incapable to stand trial. A civil suit against him was pending at his death.

After he was forced from office, he tried to give the appearance of a frail and humiliated former potentate, but he could be seen jogging and swinging a golf club at his home in the center of Jakarta. His health deteriorated in his final years and he became something of a recluse.

In his last days, a parade of the country’s power elite visited the hospital to pay their respects.

Mr. Suharto — who like many Indonesians used only one name — stepped down on May 21, 1998, just two months after arranging to have himself elected to a seventh five-year term. He departed with an apology to the nation. “I am sorry for my mistakes,” he said. But his quiet statement came only after the deaths of 500 student protesters, an event that shocked the people into a consensus that the president must go.

When demonstrators occupied the Parliament building, once-docile legislators finally called on the president to resign.

Like his predecessor, Sukarno, Mr. Suharto worked to forge national unity in a fractious country of 200 million people comprising 300 ethnic groups speaking 250 languages and inhabiting more than 17,000 islands spread over a 3,500-mile archipelago.

Sukarno had also fallen from power in a wave of violence, one that swept the country in 1965 after an attack that was officially portrayed as an abortive leftist coup. Mr. Suharto, one of the few senior military officers to escape execution on the first day of that uprising, moved decisively against the insurgents and effectively took control of the country.

Mr. Suharto dealt gingerly with Sukarno, a founding father of the nation who still had support within the army. Sukarno was kept as a figurehead while Mr. Suharto, a relatively little known major general, waited three years to officially succeed him, in 1968.

In the following years, governing through consensus, traditional mysticism, military repression and authoritarian control, President Suharto restored order to the country and presided over an era of substantial development. Many Indonesians benefited from his programs, but none more so than members of his family, who became billionaires many times over. Last year, he topped a new list of world leaders who had stolen from state coffers. The list, by the United Nations and the World Bank, cited an estimate that he had embezzled $15 billion to $35 billion.

Enigmatic and Magical

Mr. Suharto was an unlikely character to play such a major role in his country’s destiny. He was a private person, and although he wielded complete power, he spoke in gentle tones, smiled sweetly to friend and foe and presented himself as a man of humble origins, shy, retiring and enigmatic. Short and thick set, he almost invariably dressed in a Western business suit or a safari jacket once he gave up his military uniform, and a black songkok, the flat traditional Indonesian cap.

He rarely took a public stand on any issue. Instead, by waiting to allow a consensus to form, he was usually able to make events evolve the way he wished. He can be better understood in the context of the old forms of Javanese kingship in which the ruler was surrounded by courtiers who tried to divine the royal mind.

Although he was a Muslim, Mr. Suharto seemed imbued with Indonesian traditions of animism and mysticism overlaid with Hindu and Buddhist teachings. In a country given to superstition, where ancient patterns of belief coexist with more modern ideas, he consulted gurus and dukuns, spiritual advisers and soothsayers who were believed to be in touch with natural forces.

Whether it was those forces or his timing, good fortune came to him. Just as the United States was becoming embroiled in Vietnam, he stood as a bulwark against Communism in Asia. The United States rewarded him with a foreign aid program that eventually amounted to more than $4 billion a year. In addition, a consortium of Western countries and Japan established an aid program that in 1994 alone totaled almost $5 billion.

In doing so, the United States, along with much of the rest of the world, showed a willingness to overlook the corruption, favoritism and violations of human rights, including the disappearance of opposition politicians, that came to characterize Mr. Suharto’s rule.

Many Indonesians, too, supported him, at least while the economy was buoyant. But the Asian economic turmoil in 1997 exposed Indonesia’s economy as on the brink of collapse.

The currency lost 30 percent of its value in 1996, a drought made rice scarce, unemployment rose and the widening income gap led to rioting and violence. Mr. Suharto turned to the International Monetary Fund, which agreed to a $43 billion bailout if Indonesia would abide by its terms.

His signing of those terms was seen as a humiliating capitulation, but he equivocated when it came to instituting them. Many saw his hesitation as an effort to protect the fortunes of his family and friends, money widely believed to have been stashed in foreign banks.

Mr. Suharto called for belt-tightening. He raised fuel prices, then revoked the order. He promised bank reform and ended tax breaks, then reversed himself or left wide loopholes.

His failure to come to grips with economic problems brought a wave of student unrest. In May 1998, student rallies spilled from the campuses into the streets and across the archipelago. Hundreds died in fires and clashes with security forces.

Apparently unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation, Mr. Suharto left on a trip to Cairo, but was forced to cut it short in an effort to restore order. The economic crisis was a challenge that he did not seem to know how to handle.

“This is something he cannot shoot, he cannot put in jail, he cannot close down, like our newspaper,” said Jusuf Wanandi, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, an Indonesian policy institute.

Anti-Communist Purges

In the 1960s, during the turbulent months following his rise to power, few would have predicted that Mr. Suharto, a peasant turned soldier, would be able to weather crisis after crisis, as he did for 32 years.

The first of those was touched off by long-smoldering resentments between Communists, conservative Muslims and ethnic Chinese that exploded into one of the bloodiest massacres in modern history.

His precise role in the violence is not clear; he managed to keep his name from being directly attached to it. What is clear is that in many areas the army, which he controlled, supplied weapons to and whipped up an aroused population to mutilate and murder people suspected of being Communists, many of them of Chinese ancestry. Estimates of the number of dead have ranged from 500,000 to as many as one million.

Contemporary dispatches reported that the general sent crack troops of the army’s Strategic Reserve Command to organize the liquidation of the Communists. Hamish McDonald, a journalist with wide experience in Asia, wrote in his book “Suharto’s Indonesia” that General Suharto later dispatched Col. Sarwo Edhi Wibowo with a force of commandos “to encourage the anti-Communist civilians to help with the job.” The colonel said, “We gave them two or three days’ training, then sent them out to kill the Communists.”

Along with presumed Communists, entire families were wiped out and personal scores settled with ethnic Chinese, longtime residents of the country.

Mr. Suharto had blamed the Indonesian Communist Party for what he described as an abortive coup in 1965, though the Communists’ exact role in it remains unclear. In that uprising, six senior anti-Communist generals were killed in one evening, and questions have lingered about why Mr. Suharto was one of the few senior officers not marked for assassination. In any event, he became the chief beneficiary of the subsequent crackdown as he moved quickly to consolidate his control.

When Mr. Suharto took over from Sukarno, the country was bankrupt. Inflation was rampant and hunger was commonplace in a country rich in natural resources.

Mr. Suharto ended Sukarno’s policy of confrontation with Malaysia and became a force for regional stability by helping to establish the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Indonesia rejoined the United Nations, from which it had withdrawn in 1965.

With the help of American-trained economists, Indonesia moved from being the world’s largest rice-importing nation to a rice exporter. During the 1970s, oil was a major export and a significant source of foreign exchange. High oil prices allowed considerable economic development, but when Pertamina, the national oil company, was shaken by scandal in the late ’70s, the country again neared bankruptcy.

Mr. Suharto brought what became known as the New Order to Indonesia, but at the price of repression. Scholars have estimated that as many as 750,000 people were arrested in the military crackdown after the killing of the generals, and that 55,000 to 100,000 people accused of being Communists may have been held without trial for as long as 14 years.

In the early ’80s, 4,000 to 9,000 people were killed by death squads organized by army Special Forces to deal with petty criminals and some political operatives. And, according to Benedict Richard O’Gorman Anderson, a professor emeritus of government at Cornell, 200,000 people of a population of 700,000 died in East Timor in the civil war and famine after Indonesia’s invasion and annexation in 1975.

Professor Anderson called Mr. Suharto a “malign dictator with blood on his hands — over the years anywhere from half a million to a million people.”

The repressiveness of the Suharto era broke into the headlines during President Ronald Reagan’s trip to Asia in 1986, a trip meant to highlight the “winds of freedom” in the region. Just before Mr. Reagan’s arrival in Bali, the government expelled a correspondent for The New York Times and barred two Australian journalists after unfavorable reports about the great wealth accumulated by the general and his family.

When he came to power, he refused at first to move into the presidential palace, saying he preferred to live in his own modest house in Jakarta. During his years as president, however, his homes became palatial.

The Family Business

While he occupied himself with affairs of state or relaxed with a round of golf or a day of fishing, his wife, Siti Hartinah Suharto, known as Madame Tien, handled the family’s business affairs. She became the object of quiet criticism, with her detractors calling her “Madame Tien Percent,” a reference to what were said to be commissions she received on business deals.

But Madame Tien, who died in 1996, was restrained compared with the six Suharto children. They used their connections to amass as much as $35 billion from their business interests, according to an estimate by Transparency International, a private anticorruption organization. Cartels and monopolies extended the family’s reach to paper, cement, plywood, cloves, toll roads, power plants, automobiles and banks.

One daughter, Siti Hadijanti Rukmana, led a corporate group that collected many of the tolls on new highways. A son, Bambang Trihatmodjo, became chairman of a conglomerate of some 90 companies with interests in everything from shipping and insurance to cocoa and timber, hotels, television, automobiles, even condoms. Another son was connected to the state oil monopoly.

Whatever favors were not given to the Suharto family went to friends. A respected Indonesian scholar was quoted by The Times as saying: “At least 80 percent of major government projects go in some form to the president’s children or friends.”

The family has denied that it benefited unfairly from tax breaks and other favors and said government contracts had been subject to competitive bidding, a widely disputed assertion.

Impoverished Childhood

Mr. Suharto was born on June 8, 1921, in Kemusu Argamulja, a village west of Yogyakarta in central Java. He was the only child from his father’s second marriage, but he had 11 half-brothers and sisters. His father was a village irrigation official, with control over the water for rice growers.

His parents divorced, and he moved from his mother’s home to an aunt’s, to his father’s, to his stepfather’s. At one point he was transferred to the household of Daryatmo, a noted guru and dukun, who remained an adviser to Mr. Suharto in his later years.

He was so poor that he once had to change schools because he could not afford the shorts and shoes that were the required uniform. His education ended with junior high school. He found a job in the bank in his village, but resigned after he tore his only set of work clothes in a bicycle accident.

Indonesia was a Dutch colony and with the outbreak of war in 1940, he joined the Royal Netherlands Indies Army, which surrendered to the Japanese three months after Pearl Harbor. Indonesian nationalists began cooperating with the Japanese as a step toward independence, and he joined the Japanese-sponsored Volunteer Army, reaching the rank of commander.

After the Japanese surrender he joined the independence forces, emerging as a lieutenant colonel, steeped in anticolonialism and anti-Communism.

In 1947 he married Siti Hartinah; they had six children, Siti Hardiyanti Hastuti, Sigit Harjojudanto, Bambang Trihatmodjo, Siti Hediati, Hutomo Mandala Putra and Siti Hutami Endang Adiningsih, who survive, along with 11 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

After attending the army staff and command school, he was made a brigadier general and placed in charge of intelligence. He rose to command the army’s new Strategic Reserve Force, the position he held when the six generals were killed in 1965. On that night, he was visiting his youngest child in a hospital, and it was said that that was how he escaped assassination.

Despite the allegations of human-rights abuses and corruption, Mr. Suharto escaped prosecution, evidence of the influence he retained long after he was forced from power. In 2000, the government charged him with having embezzled more than $600 million, but later dropped the charges because he was in ill health. After Time magazine reported that he had stolen up to $15 billion, he sued for defamation, and lost twice in lower courts before the Supreme Court ruled in his favor last year.

In July, prosecutors filed a civil suit, which is still pending, seeking $1.1 billion in damages for embezzling. And in December, an investigation was announced into six cases of human-rights abuses, including the killing of more than half a million people in the ’60s.

Because of a stroke and other ailments, he was said to have brain damage and trouble communicating. But in November, after obtaining the verdict against Time, he gave a rare interview to an Indonesian news magazine. Asked about the accusations of corruption, he laughed. “It’s all empty talk,” he said. “Let them accuse me. The fact is I have never committed corruption.”

Seth Mydans contributed reporting from Solo, Indonesia.


Obituary-Ex-strongman Suharto leaves controversial legacy

JAKARTA, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Former strongman Suharto, who died on Sunday, steered Indonesia through three decades of rapid economic growth and stability, only to see much of his work unravel in months as the country was plunged into chaos.

The ex-general was swept out of office on May 21, 1998 amid a savage economic crisis, mass protests and riots in Jakarta that killed 1,200, while his own legacy was tarnished by charges his family had plundered billions of dollars through corrupt deals.

The 86-year-old former president was taken to a Jakarta hospital on Jan. 4 with heart, lung and kidney problems. He suffered from multiple organ failure, doctors said on Sunday.

Ethnic bloodletting, a ruined economy and weak government in the years after Suharto's fall led some Indonesians to yearn for a return to his tough style of leadership. That view faded as Indonesia embraced democracy and recovered, and many could never forgive the graft and human rights abuses of the Suharto era.

Critics say Suharto and his family amassed as much as $45 billion in kickbacks or deals where political influence was a key to who won a contract, charges he denied.

Attempts, some half-hearted, by subsequent governments to prosecute him over corruption charges failed as the courts accepted that he was too ill to stand trial.

Suharto rejected accusations he had stashed wealth overseas. Last year, the Supreme Court ordered Time magazine to pay him more than $100 million in damages in a libel suit over a 1999 cover story that said he and his family had a fortune of around $15 billion. Time has challenged the ruling.

"The fact is I don't even have one cent of savings abroad, don't have accounts at foreign banks, don't have deposits abroad and don't even have any shares in foreign firms, much less hundreds of billions of dollars," Suharto said in a rare interview in late 1998.

Some defenders say Suharto himself was relatively clean, but turned a blind eye to his relatives' abuse of their connections to him to gain lucrative contracts and increasingly egregious deals that included a national car project and Bre-X, a non-existent gold mine.

In any case, Indonesia was consistently ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the world under Suharto, and has had limited success in changing that since his fall.


Born on June 8, 1921, Suharto came from a humble background. His father was a minor official in the village of Kemusuk in Central Java.

Suharto joined the Dutch colonial army at 19 as a corporal. During the Japanese 1942-45 occupation, he was an officer in the Japanese-trained "Indonesian army", and afterwards fought with Indonesian guerrillas against the Dutch.

He rose to power after he led the military in 1965 against what was officially called an attempted communist coup. Whether that was true -- and Suharto's role in the events remains controversial -- it was followed by an anti-communist purge in which as many as 500,000 people were killed.

Suharto effectively seized control from the country's first president, Sukarno, in 1966 and was named president the next year. Over the next three decades, he won reluctant admiration for political shrewdness as he played rival groups off against each other and stifled political dissent.

His New Order regime brought multi-ethnic Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous country, a large measure of unity, backed by a powerful military that crushed any sign of revolt.

As a staunch anti-communist, he had the support of the West, particularly Washington which quietly gave the green light for Indonesia's brutal invasion of East Timor in 1975. The United Nations never recognised the annexation, and only after Suharto was ousted did Indonesia agree to Timor's independence.


Once one of Asia's tiger economies, Indonesia was among those hardest hit by the region's financial crisis in 1997-98. Years of economic progress evaporated as the rupiah currency collapsed, scores of firms went bankrupt, and millions of people were thrown back into poverty.

The crisis sparked unprecedented political dissent. Thousands of students across Indonesia took to the streets to demand Suharto's resignation. Riots and unrest flared. Jakarta burned.

When Suharto did eventually resign, he handed over to his protege and vice president, B.J. Habibie, and the backlash began.

Amid allegations of graft, state firms cancelled deals struck with Suharto's relatives, saying they had been forced into them on unfavourable terms, while Indonesia's crippled banking system took years to recover.

Evidence mounted of human rights atrocities by the army that had backed Suharto's presidency, and ethnic, religious and separatist violence burst out across the sprawling archipelago, leaving thousands dead.

Suharto's political vehicle, known as Golkar, remained strong even after he stepped down, winning most seats in parliament in 2004, although it failed to take the presidency later that year.

His own direct and visible influence seemed to fade fairly quickly after he resigned, and he said very little in public even before his reported health problems.

But Suharto and his family kept close links to key institutions such as the military, while Indonesia's political and business elite still showed their respect by visiting him, at home and in hospital.

Despite occasional nostalgic pangs for the positive aspects of his rule, however, the public shows little desire to abandon the post-Suharto democracy that has won praise worldwide. (Writing by Jerry Norton, Editing by Sara Webb and Sanjeev Miglani)


Focus: Japan expert calls Suharto's Indonesia 'nation without justice'

TOKYO, Jan. 27 (Kyodo News) -- A Japanese expert on Indonesian affairs has branded Indonesia under the late President Suharto ''a nation without justice'' and called for further investigation into human rights abuse allegations committed during his regime in an essay contributed to Kyodo News.

Takeshi Kohno, 42, associate professor of political science at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo, was a political adviser to the Japanese Embassy in Jakarta from 2000 to 2003.

The full text of his contribution is as follows:

Suharto's Legacy: A Nation Without Justice

Justice serves to guarantee a nation's legitimacy to govern. Suharto, who has just died, unfortunately left his beloved Indonesia as a nation without justice. This unfortunate legacy is evident in the voices of the people who still seek justice after having lost their family members during the brutal authoritarian regime. In fact, there are many unresolved cases of human rights abuse, and the perpetrators and killers responsible for these abuses are still free.

To name a few examples of this injustice, during the early years of the Suharto regime, millions of Indonesian Communist Party members and suspected sympathizers were jailed. Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission estimates that about 1.4 million citizens were jailed for this reason, and many died during their confinement. We still do not know exactly what happened to those who died during confinement, because there is no clear record of this confinement. The families of Muslim activists missing since the 1984 military crackdown in Jakarta are still waiting for the return of their relatives, and the killers of a female labor activist in the city of Surabaya in 1993 and of an investigative journalist in Central Java in 1996 have not yet been arrested. The shooters who killed four student activists during the anti-Suharto demonstrations in May 1998 also were never tried although the four dead students were ''upgraded'' as national heroes for political reform.

The mass killing campaigns of the Acehnese and Papuans by the Indonesian military left thousands, if not millions, of angry family members who are still asking for some kind of explanation of why and how their parents, children and relatives were shot, hanged and raped to death.

We know that a nation without truth asks for conspiracy theories. And once conspiracy theories spread widely, the people have no one to trust. Surely, a nation filled with conspiracy theories is good for dictators, but it is not suitable for a democratic nation. This is because democracy demands the people's trust as a legitimizer of the nation, and therefore, a nation without the people's trust is a weak one, and is even illegitimate.

No one can deny the fact that Indonesia showed remarkable success in democratization after Suharto's fall from grace in 1998. The 2004 parliamentary and presidential elections are the true evidence demonstrating that Indonesia is the largest Muslim democracy in the world. Yet, it is also true that the ghost of conspiracy haunts the democratic nation of Indonesia. A good example of this is the still circulating, deep-rooted conspiracy theory that the 2002 Bali bombing was carried out by the American CIA for the purpose of discrediting Islam and providing a reason to start a war in Southeast Asia. This ridiculous theory is still around, even though the police have arrested the perpetrators, and the perpetrators themselves confessed to the crime in court. This lack of public trust in the justice system unfortunately makes the government's counterterrorism efforts ineffective. Authority without public trust fails to gain legitimacy.

The Indonesian people themselves need to find out the truth behind the past crimes, and read and write their own modern history of the Suharto era if they want to build a strong democratic nation. The story of the Suharto who survived the Cold War and fostered consistent economic development with an iron fist has yet to be told by the Indonesians themselves.

Justice can only be established by public agreement based on a thorough investigation of events and ultimately the historical truth. And the common perception and agreement on a nation's true history is the foundation of a democratic nation. A nation without truth and stained with conspiracy theories lacks legitimacy, and this weakens democracy. Japan, a nation which still lacks an agreed upon history of its war aggression in Asia, ultimately needs to answer this call as well. If Indonesians are to maintain a legitimate government which holds the trust of its people, the post-Suharto Indonesia must find the truth in its troubled history.

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