Suharto was President of Indonesia for over 30 years. While his focus was not Bali, there is no doubt he had a huge impact on Bali and the rest of Indonesia. While much of the western world was struggling with the Cold War, Indonesia has its own internal struggle against Communism. Some estimates say 100,000 Balinese were killed in the first couple of years during Suharto’s presidency.
Suharto (born June 8, 1921) is a former Indonesian military and political leader. He served as a military officer in the Indonesian National Revolution, but is better known as the long-reigning second President of Indonesia, holding the office from 1967 to 1998.
Like many Javanese, Suharto has only one name. In contexts where his religion is being discussed he is sometimes called Haji or el-Haj Mohammed Suharto, but this Islamic title is not part of his formal name or generally used. The spelling “Suharto” has been official in Indonesia since 1947 but the older spelling Soeharto is still frequently used.
Suharto seized power from his predecessor, the first president of Indonesia Sukarno, through a mixture of force and political maneuvering against the backdrop of foreign and domestic unrest. Over the three decades of his “New Order” regime, Suharto constructed a strong central government along militarist lines. An ability to maintain stability and an avowedly anti-Communist stance won him the economic and diplomatic support of several Western governments in the era of the Cold War. For most of his three-decade rule, Indonesia experienced significant economic growth and industrialization. His rule, however, led to political purges and the deaths of millions of Indonesian communists and Chinese-Indonesians, and enaction of legislation outlawing communist parties and ethnic Chinese.
By the 1990s, however, his New Order administration’s authoritarian and increasingly corrupt practices became a source of much discontent. Suharto’s almost unquestioned authority over Indonesian affairs slipped dramatically when the Asian financial crisis lowered Indonesians’ standard of living and fractured his support among the nation’s military, political and civil society institutions. After internal unrest, diplomatic isolation began to drain his support in the mid-to-late 1990s, Suharto was forced to resign from the presidency in May 1998 following mass demonstrations.
After serving as the public face of Indonesia for over 30 years, Suharto now lives his post-presidential years in virtual seclusion. Attempts to try him on charges of genocide have failed due to his failing health. His legacy remains hotly debated and contested both in Indonesia and in foreign-policy debates in the West.
•Background & career
Suharto was born in the era of Dutch colonial control of Indonesia, in the hamlet of Kemusuk, a part of the larger village of Godean, 15 kilometres west of Yogyakarta, in central Java. Escaping what was by many accounts a troubled childhood, he enrolled as a military officer in the Dutch military academy during a time when the East Indies became a center of several armed conflicts, including World War II and the Indonesian National Revolution. Like many natives in the military, Suharto was forced to change allegiances several times, but his training enabled him to become an asset to the side he finally settled upon, that of the Indonesian Nationalists.
•A troubled and mysterious childhood
The facts of the childhood and youth of Suharto, according to Western biographies, are steeped in both mystery and myth. Standard and apocryphal accounts of his early years and family life exist, many loaded with political meaning. Suharto’s parents, his mother Sukirah and father Kertosudiro, were ethnic-Javanese and peasant class, living in an area without electricity or running water.
The early family life of Suharto is generally thought to have been unstable. His father Kertosudiro’s marriage to Sukirah was his second; he already had two children from his previous marriage. Kertosudiro’s marriage to Sukirah itself is believed to have ended in divorce early in Suharto’s life, though exactly when is inconsistent – the account in Roeder’s biography The Smiling General claims the divorce came within years of his birth; the account in Suharto’s autobiography Pirakan states that it came within mere weeks.
The absence of official documentation and certain aspects of Suharto’s early life that are inconsistent with that of a Javanese peasant (Suharto received, for example, an education fairly early on), has led to several rumors of Suharto being the illegitimate child of a well-off benefactor, which included a being the child of a Yogyakarta aristocrat or well-off Chinese Indonesian merchant. Western biographer R.E. Elson believes that such rumors cannot be entirely ruled out, given that much of the information Suharto has given on his origins has been tinged with political meaning.
His parents divorced and re-married to new partners. Suharto was estranged from alternately each or both his parents for extended periods of time, being passed around several households for much of his early life. The marriage of his paternal aunt to a low-level Javanese official named Prawirowiharjo, who took to raising Suharto as his own, is believed by Elson (2001) to have provided both a father-figure and role model for Suharto, as well as a stable home in Wuryantoro, from where he received much of his primary education.
As noted by Elson (2001) and others, Suharto’s upbringing stood in contrast with that of leading Indonesian Nationalists such as Sukarno, in that he is believed to have had little interest in anti-colonialism, or political concerns beyond his immediate surroundings. He was also, unlike Sukarno and his circle, illiterate in Dutch or other European languages. He would, however, learn Dutch upon his induction into the Dutch military in 1940.
•Pre-Independence military career
After a brief stint in a clerical job at a bank (from which he was fired), followed by a spell of unemployment, Suharto joined the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) in 1940, and studied in a Dutch-run military academy in Gombong near Yogyakarta. This unusual opportunity for an indigenous colonial subject came as a result of the Netherlands’ growing need for troops as World War II widened and the threat of an invasion by Imperial Japan grew more likely.
After graduation, Suharto was assigned to Battalion XIII at Rampal. His service there was quite ordinary, but for his contracting malaria requiring hospitalization while on guard duty, and then gaining promotion to sergeant.
The invasion of Imperial Japanese forces and subsequent surrender of the Dutch forces led to Suharto’s desertion from the Dutch to the Japanese occupation force. He first joined the Japanese sponsored police force at the rank of keibuho (assistant inspector), where he claimed to have gained his first experience in the intelligence work so central to his presidency (“Criminal matters became a secondary problem,” Suharto remarked, “what was most important were matters of a political kind”).
Suharto shifted from police work toward the Japanese-sponsored militia, the Peta (Defenders of the Fatherland) in which Indonesians served as officers. In his training to serve at the rank of shodancho (platoon commander) he encountered a localized version of the Japanese bushido, or “way of the warrior” , used to indoctrinate troops. This training encouraged an anti-Dutch and pro-nationalist thought, although toward the aims of the Imperial Japanese militarists. The encounter with a nationalistic and militarist ideology is believed to have profoundly influenced Suharto’s own way of thinking.
•Service in the Indonesian National Revolution
The Japanese surrender to the Allies in World War II brought forth the opportunity for the leaders of the Indonesian Nationalist cause Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta to hastily declare the complete independence of Indonesia and the beginning of the Indonesian National Revolution. International recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty, however, would only come after armed action – a task at which Suharto would prove himself adept.
•Expulsion of the Japanese
The Japanese surrender left Suharto in a position to create a name for himself as a part of the military effort to first expel the remaining Japanese forces, and to prepare nationalist forces for the Dutch attempt to retake their former colonial possessions in the archipelago. He became a deputy to Umar Slamet in the service of the revolutionary government’s People’s Security Body (BKR).
Suharto claims to have led a number of attacks against remaining Japanese forces around Yogyakarta. The central role he commonly portrayed himself playing in his reminisces on the period during his presidency is debatable; however, it may be acknowledged that Suharto’s familiarity with military functioning helped in the organization of the disparate independence forces into a unified fighting force. In the early years of the War, Suharto organized local armed forces into Battalion X of Regiment I; Suharto was promoted to the rank of Major and became Battalion X’s leader.
•Return of the Dutch
The arrival of the Allies, under a mandate to return the situation to the status quo ante bellum, quickly led to clashes between Suharto’s Division X and returning Dutch forces, bolstered by Gurkhas in the employ of Great Britain. Political differences within both the Allies and the civilian Nationalist forces caused the conflict to alternate in intensity from the end of 1945 into first months of 1946, as negotiations went on between the leaderships of the Indonesian Nationalists and the Dutch in between periods of fighting. In this muddle, Suharto led his troops toward halting an advance by the Dutch T (“Tiger”) Brigade on 17 May 1946. It earned Suharto the respect of his superior, Lieutenant Colonel Sunarto Kusumodirjo, who invited him to draft the working guidelines for the Battle Leadership Headquarters (MPP), a body created to organize and unify the command structure of the Indonesian Nationalist forces.
The military forces of the still infant Republic of Indonesia were constantly restructuring. By August 1946, Suharto was head of the 22nd Regiment of Division III (the “Diponegoro” Division) stationed in Yogyakarta. In late 1946 the Diponegoro Division became responsible for defense of the west and south-west of Yogyakarta from Dutch forces. Conditions at the time are reported in Dutch sources as miserable; Suharto himself is reported as assisting smuggling syndicates in the transport of opium through the territory he controlled, in order to make income.
After a period of cooling down, the Dutch-Indonesian conflict flared up again in 1947 as the Dutch initiated Operatie Product (“Operation Product”), the first of its two Politionele acties (“Police Actions”) to recapture Indonesia. Operatie Product severely demoralized Indonesian forces, but diplomatic action in the United Nations granted a respite from the fighting in order to resume negotiation. In the meantime, Suharto was married to Siti Hartinah, a woman of a high class family that in the years of the revolution lost its prestige and income. Over the next 17 years the couple would have six children: Siti Hardiyanti Hastuti (Tutut, born 1949), Sigit Harjojudanto (born 1951), Bambang Trihatmodjo (born 1953), Siti Hediati (Titiek, born 1959), Hutomo Mandala Putra (Tommy, born 1962), and Siti Hutami Endang Adiningsih (Mamiek, born 1964).
The Second Police Action, Operatie Kraai (“Operation Crow”), commenced in December 1948 and decimated much of the Indonesian fighting forces, resulting in the capture of Sukarno and Hatta, the civilian leadership of Indonesia. Suharto, for his part, took severe casualties as the Dutch invaded the area of Yogyakarta; the retreat was equally humiliating.
•Guerrilla warfare and victory
It is widely believed that the humiliating nature of this defeat ingrained a sense of guilt in Suharto, as well as a sense of obligation to avenge his honor. Suharto, and the aggrieved Indonesian armed forces, attempted to do this by means of guerrilla warfare, using intelligence and supply networks established at the village level. During this time ambushes became a favored tactic; villagers were enlisted to attack Dutch patrols with weapons as primitive as bamboo spears. The desired effect was to remind the populace of the continuing resistance to Dutch rule. However, these attacks were largely ineffective and were often comparable to suicide.
Suharto’s efforts to regain the national honor culminated in an attack on Dutch forces at Yogyakarta on 1 March 1949. Suharto would later embellish his role as the singular plotter; according to more objective sources, however, the nationalist Sultan Hamengku Buwono IX (who still remained in power), as well as the Panglima of the Third Division ordered the attack. General Nasution would recall, however, that Suharto took great care in preparing the “General Offensive” (Indonesian” Serangan Umum).
In a series of daring small-scale raids under cover of darkness and with the support of locals, Suharto’s forces captured the city, holding it until noon. The attack yielded some ammunition and a few light arms; as propaganda and psychological warfare it had filled the desired effect, however – civilians sympathetic to the Nationalist cause within the city had been galvanized by the show of force, and internationally, the United Nations took notice, with the Security Council putting pressure on the Dutch to cease Police Action and to re-embark on negotiations. Suharto gained both national and international recognition of his abilities as a military planner.
The return of the Dutch to the negotiating table all but assured, Suharto took an active interest in the peace agreements, though they were much to his dissatisfaction.
•Post-Independence military career
During the following years he served in the Indonesian National Army, stationed primarily on Java. In 1950, Colonel Suharto led the Garuda Brigade in suppressing a rebellion of largely Ambonese colonial-trained supporters of the Dutch-established State of Eastern Indonesia and its federal entity the United States of Indonesia; the rebellion was led by Andi Azis a former officer of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL). During his one-year stay in Makassar, Suharto became acquianted with his neighbours the Habibie family, whose eldest son BJ Habibie would later became Suharto’s vice-president and went on to succeed him as President. In 1951, Suharto led his troops in a cautious blocking campaign against the Islamic-inspired rebellion of Battalion 426 in Central Java before it was broken by the ‘Banteng (Wild Buffalo) Raiders‘ led by Achmad Yani. Between 1954 and 1959, Brigadier General Suharto served in the important position of commander of Diponegoro Division, responsible for Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces. His relationship with prominent businessmen Liem Sioe Liong and Bob Hasan began in Central Java where he was involved in series of ‘profit generating’ enterprises conducted primarily to keep the poorly funded military unit functioning. Army anti-corruption investigations implicated Suharto in 1959 smuggling scandal. However, his military career was saved by Gen. Gatot Subroto; instead of being brought before a court martial, he was transferred to the army Staff College in Bandung, West Java. In 1962 he was promoted to the rank of major general and was appointed to lead the Mandala Command, a conjunct army-navy-air force umbrella command headquartered in Makassar, that organized the military campaign against the Dutch in Netherlands New Guinea. After the surrender of the Dutch, Suharto was appointed commander of Kostrad (Strategic Reserve), a sizeable army combat force, which most importantly had significant presence in the Jakarta area. By 1965, the armed forces split into two factions, one left wing and one right wing, with Suharto in the right-wing camp.
•Overthrow of Sukarno (1965)
On the morning of October 1, 1965, a group of Sukarno’s closest guards kidnapped and murdered six of the right-wing anti-Communist generals. Sukarno’s guards claimed that they were trying to stop a CIA-backed military coup which was planned to remove Sukarno from power on “Army Day”, October 5. Suharto, at the time a Major General, joined surviving right-wing General Abdul Haris Nasution (once a Sukarno ally) in pointing the blame for the assassinations toward Sukarno loyalists and the Communist Party of Indonesia – a conspiracy they collectively dubbed the “30 September Movement” (Indonesian: Gerakan 30 September). The group’s name was more commonly abbreviated G30S, and propaganda would refer to the group by the epithet Gestapu (for its supposed similarity to the Nazi secret police the Gestapo).
•Crisis and opportunity
Chaos and confusion surrounded the assassinations, but provided an opportunity for Suharto to rise within the army’s ranks. At the time of the assassinations of the generals, Maj. Gen. Suharto and his Kostrad units were closest to the capital Jakarta; thus he became the field general in charge of prosecution of the alleged G30S forces. He gained further military powers through the intervention of the surviving right-wing Defense Minister and overall military Chief-of-Staff Gen. Abdul Haris Nasution, who forced President Sukarno to remove Maj. Gen. Pranoto Reksosamudra (seen as a leftist and Sukarno-loyalist) from the position of Army Chief-of-Staff, and to replace him with Maj. Gen. Suharto.
On 18 October, a declaration was read over the army-controlled radio stations, banning the Communist Party of Indonesia. The army, acting on orders by Suharto and supervised by Nasution, began a campaign of agitation and incitement to violence among Indonesian civilians aimed not only at Communists but the ethnic-Chinese community and toward President Sukarno himself. The resultant destabilization of the country left the Army the only force left to maintain order.
In the following months, as alleged Communists and Sukarno loyalists were killed and captured from the cities and villages, and liquidated from government, the troika of Pres. Sukarno, Nasution, and Suharto jockeyed for power. Contemporary reports state that Sukarno was politically weak and desperate to keep power in the hands of his presidency by starting a factional struggle between Gen. Nasution and Suharto, while the two were absorbed in personal ambitions.
On 1 February 1966, Pres. Sukarno promoted Suharto to the rank of Lieutenant General. The same month, Gen. Nasution had been forced out of his position of Defense Minister. The power contest had been boiled down to Suharto and Sukarno; with Sukarno in ill-health and politically isolated due to the removal of the PKI from the scene, Suharto had virtually assured himself the presidency.
Both supporters and critics of Suharto acknowledge that the period of civil war was marked by human rights abuses, with estimated civilian casualties ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions. Supporters of Suharto claim that these were justified due to the imminent threat of a PKI-led coup, citing the 1948 Madiun Affair, and that the Communist Party intended its peasant and workers’ organizations to eventually become a fighting force.
Critics of Suharto claim that the PKI in 1965 had an inclination toward Eurocommunism and had come to prefer parliamentary electoral politics to armed insurrection; the party placed third in the 1955 presidential election behind Sukarno’s own Partai Nasional Indonesia (PNI) and the Islamist party Masyumi. These critics allege that Suharto purposefully exaggerated PKI involvement in the assassinations of the generals, in order to justify the liquidation of this power bloc as well as to justify his repressive measures afterwards.
However brutal, Suharto’s wresting of power away from the firebrand Sukarno brought a shift in policy that allowed for USAID and other relief agencies to resume operations within the country. Suharto would open Indonesia’s economy by divesting state owned companies, and Western nations in particular were encouraged to invest and take control of many of the mining and construction interests in Indonesia. The result was the alleviation of famine conditions due to shortfalls in rice supply and Sukarno’s reluctance to take Western aid, and stabilization of the economy.
•“New Order” Government (1967-1998)
On March 11, 1966 the politically ailing Sukarno wrote a letter (the Surat Perintah Sebelas Maret or “Supersemar”) in which he declared a state of emergency and transferred most of his power to Suharto. Through this, Suharto established what he called the New Order (Orde Baru). He permanently banned the Communist Party of Indonesia and its alleged front groups, purging the parliament and cabinet of Sukarno loyalists, eliminating labor unions and instituting press censorship.
Internationally, Suharto put Indonesia on a course toward improved relations with Western nations, while ending its friendly relations with the People’s Republic of China. He dispatched his foreign minister, Adam Malik to mend strained relations with the United States, United Nations, and Malaysia and end the Confrontation. Indonesia also became a founding member of ASEAN.
Domestically, The New Order targeted ethnic Chinese and enacted several anti-Chinese legislations, banning them from public life. Chinese literature and characters were outlawed, and they were forced to renounce their Chinese ties and adopt Indonesian sounding names. Many Chinese were forced into exile, while others were killed during the anti-Communist purges.
•Institutionalisation of the New Order
On March 12, 1967 Sukarno was stripped of his remaining power by Indonesia’s provisional Parliament, led by Nasution. Suharto was named Acting President. On March 21, 1968 he was formally elected for the first of his five-year terms as President.
To maintain order, Suharto greatly expanded the funding and powers of the Indonesian state apparatus. He established two intelligence agencies—the Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order (KOPKAMTIB) and the State Intelligence Coordination Agency (BAKIN)—to deal with threats to the regime. Suharto also established the Bureau of Logistics (BULOG) to distribute rice and other staple commodities granted by USAID. These new government bodies were put under the military regional command structure, that under Suharto was given a “dual function” as both a defense force and as civilian administrators.
On economic matters, President Suharto relied on a group of American-educated economists, nicknamed the “Berkeley Mafia,” to set policy. Soon after coming to power, he passed a number of reforms meant to establish Indonesia as a center of foreign investment. These included the privatization of its natural resources to promote their exploitation by industrialized nations, labour laws favorable to multinational corporations, and soliciting funds for development from institutions including the World Bank, Western banks, and friendly governments.
As virtually unchecked forces in Indonesian society under the New Order, however, members of the military and Golkar Party were heavily involved as intermediaries between businesses (foreign and domestic) and the Indonesian government. This led to bribery, racketeering, and embezzlement. Funds from these practices often flowed to foundations (yayasan) controlled by the Suharto family.
Between 300,000 and one million Indonesians were killed in the mass-killings following the arrest of PKI members in Suharto’s cabinet on October 6, 1965. Lists of suspected communists were supplied to the Indonesian military by the CIA. A CIA study of the events in Indonesia assessed that “In terms of the numbers killed the anti-PKI massacres in Indonesia rank as one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century..”.
It must also be noted that the CIA was not the only party to the issue, and there was also British involvement in the events.
Time Magazine presented the following account on December 17, 1966 : “Communists, red sympathisers and their families are being massacred by the thousands. Backlands army units are reported to have executed thousands of communists after interrogation in remote jails. Armed with wide-bladed knives called parangs, Muslim bands crept at night into the homes of communists, killing entire families and burying their bodies in shallow graves.”
“The murder campaign became so brazen in parts of rural East Java, that Muslim bands placed the heads of victims on poles and paraded them through villages. The killings have been on such a scale that the disposal of the corpses has created a serious sanitation problem in East Java and Northern Sumatra where the humid air bears the reek of decaying flesh. Travellers from those areas tell of small rivers and streams that have been literally clogged with bodies.”
Amongst the worst affected areas was the island of Bali, where PKI had grown rapidly prior to the crackdown. On November 11 clashes erupt between PKI and PNI, ending in massacres of PKI accused members and sympathizers. Whereas much of the anti-PKI pogroms in the rest of the country were carried out by Islamic political organizations in the name of jihad, the killings in Bali were done in the name of Hinduism. Bali stood out as the only place in the country where local soldiers in some way intervened to lessen the slaughter.
In December the military proclaimed that Aceh had been cleared of communists. Simultaneously, Special Military Courts were set up to try jail PKI members. On March 12, the party was formally banned by Suharto, and The pro-PKI trade union SOBSI was banned in April.
With the justification of denouncing Chinese communism, Suharto not only closed communist-leaning parties, but also extended his reach toward all Chinese Indonesian parties and all aspects of Chinese Indonesian socio-culture. Suharto effectively stripped Chinese Indonesians of power, banning them from politics and the military. He championed forced assimilation policy against Chinese Indonesians so that they would forget their ties to China. This policy brought forth many anti Chinese legislations. Suharto passed and enacted very discriminatory citizenship laws, such as forcing Chinese Indonesians to re-register themselves as Indonesian citizens by renouncing their alleged Chinese citizenship regardless of the validity of the Indonesian citizenship they may already have. He denounced Chinese cultures and banned Chinese characters and literature. Allegedly, Suharto was also the mastermind of the 1965 slaughter of millions of Chinese Indonesians, purportedly to eradicate the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI).
From his assumption of office until his resignation, Suharto continued Sukarno’s policy of asserting Indonesian sovereignty. He acted zealously to stake and enforce territorial claims over much of the region, through both diplomacy and military action.
In 1969, Suharto moved to end the longtime controversy over the last Dutch territory in the East Indies, western New Guinea. Working with the United States and United Nations, an agreement was made to hold a referendum on self-determination, in which participants could choose to remain part of the Netherlands, to integrate with the Republic of Indonesia, or to become independent. Though originally phrased to be a nationwide vote of all adult Papuans, the “Act of Free Choice” was held July–August 1969 allowed only 1022 “chiefs” to vote. The unanimous vote was for integration with the Republic of Indonesia, leading to doubts of the validity of the vote.
In 1975, after Portugal withdrew from its colony of East Timor and the Fretilin movement momentarily took power, Suharto ordered troops to invade East Timor. Later the puppet government installed by Indonesia requested the area be annexed to the country. It was estimated that 200,000 people, roughly a third of the local population, were killed by the Indonesian forces or affiliated proxy forces. On July 15, 1976 East Timor became the province of Timor Timur until it was transferred to the United Nations in 1999.
In 1976, the regime was challenged in the province of Aceh by the formation of the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, who demanded independence from the unitary state. Suharto quickly authorized troops to put down the rebellion, forcing several of its leaders into exile in Sweden. Prolonged fighting between GAM and the Indonesian military and police led Suharto to declare martial law in the province, by naming Aceh a “military operational area” (DOM) in 1990.
Underpinning Suharto’s territorial ambitions was the rapid development of Indonesia’s traditional urban centers. The rapid pace of this development had vastly increased their population density. In response, Suharto pursued the policy of transmigration to promote movement from crowded cities to rural regions of the archipelago where natural resources had not yet been exploited.
In 1970, corruption prompted student protests and an investigation by a government commission. Suharto responded by banning student protests, forcing the activists underground. Only token prosecution of the cases recommended by the commission was pursued. The pattern of co-opting a few of his more powerful opponents while criminalizing the rest became a hallmark of Suharto’s rule.
In order to maintain a veneer of democracy, Suharto made a number of electoral reforms. According to his electoral rules, however, only three parties were allowed to participate in the election: his own Golkar party; the Islamist United Development Party (PPP); and the Democratic Party of Indonesia (PDI). All the previously existing political parties were forced to be part of either the PPP and PDI, with public servants under pressure to join Golkar. In a political compromise with the powerful military, he banned its members from voting in elections, but set aside 100 seats in the electoral college for their representatives. As a result, he was unopposed for reelection as president in 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, and 1998.
On May 5, 1980 a group Petition of Fifty (Petisi 50) demanded greater political freedoms. It was composed of former military men, politicians, academics and students. The Indonesian media suppressed the news and the government placed restrictions on the signatories. After the group’s 1984 accusation that Suharto was creating a one-party state, some of its leaders were jailed.
In the same decade, it is believed by many scholars that the Indonesian military split between a nationalist “red and white faction” and an Islamist “green faction.” As the 1980s closed, Suharto is said to have been forced to shift his alliances from the former to the latter, leading to the rise of Jusuf Habibie in the 1990s.
After the 1990s brought end of the Cold War, Western concern over communism waned, and Suharto’s human rights record came under greater international scrutiny. In 1991, the murder of East Timorese civilians in a Dili cemetery, also known as the “Santa Cruz Massacre“, caused American attention to focus on its military relations with the Suharto regime and the question of Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor. In 1992, this attention resulted in the Congress of the United States passing limitations on IMET assistance to the Indonesian military, over the objections of President George H.W. Bush. In 1993, under President Bill Clinton, the U.S. delegation to the UN Human Rights Commission helped pass a resolution expressing deep concern over Indonesian human rights violations in East Timor. The Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor has been called the worst instance of genocide (relative to population) since the Holocaust.
In 1996 Suharto was challenged by a split over the leadership of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), a legal party that propped up the regime. Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Sukarno, had become PDI’s chairwoman and was increasingly critical of Suharto’s regime. In response, Suharto backed a co-opted faction led by Deputy Speaker of Parliament Suryadi. The Suryadi faction announced a party congress to sack Megawati would be held in Medan June 20 – 22.
In response, Megawati proclaimed that if sacked, her supporters would hold demonstrations in protest. The Suryadi faction went through with its sacking of Megawati, and the demonstrations manifested themselves throughout Indonesia. This led to several confrontations on the streets between protesters and security forces. A deal was eventually made with the military to allow Megawati’s supporters to take over PDI headquarters in Jakarta, in exchange for a pledge of no further demonstrations. During this time, Megawati supporters organized “democracy forums” at the site, with several activists making speeches denouncing Suharto and his regime.
After one month of this, police, soldiers, and persons claiming to be Suryadi supporters stormed the headquarters, killing Megawati supporters and arresting two-hundred. Those arrested were tried under the Anti-Subversion and Hate-spreading laws. The day would become known as “Black Saturday” and mark the beginning of a renewed crackdown by the New Order government against supporters of democracy, now called the “Reformasi” or Reformation.
In 1997 Asian financial crisis had dire consequences for the Indonesian economy and society, and Suharto’s regime. The Indonesian currency, the rupiah, took a sharp dive in value. Suharto came under scrutiny from international lending institutions, chiefly the World Bank, IMF and the United States, over longtime embezzlement of funds and some protectionist policies. In December, Suharto’s government signed a letter of intent to the IMF, pledging to enact austerity measures, including cuts to public services and removal of subsidies, in return for receiving the aid of the IMF and other donors.
Beginning in early 1998, the austerity measures approved by Suharto had started to erode domestic confidence in the regime. Prices for commodities such as kerosene and rice, and fees for public services including education rose dramatically. The effects were exacerbated by widespread corruption.
Suharto stood for reelection for the seventh time in March 1998, justifying it on the grounds of the necessity of his leadership during the crisis. As in past years, he was unopposed for reelection. This sparked protests and riots throughout the country, now termed the Indonesian Revolution of 1998. Dissension within the ranks of his own Golkar party and military finally weakened Suharto, and on May 21 he stood down from power. He was replaced by his deputy Jusuf Habibie.
Since his resignation, Suharto has retired to a family compound in Central Jakarta, making few public appearances. Efforts to prosecute Suharto have mostly centered around alleged mismanagement of funds, and their force has been blunted due to health concerns.
•Investigations of wealth
In May 1999, a Time Asia estimated Suharto’s family fortune at US$15 billion in cash, shares, corporate assets, real estate, jewelery and fine art. Of this, US$9 billion is reported to have been deposited in an Austrian bank. The family is said to control about 36,000 km² of real estate in Indonesia, including 100,000 m² of prime office space in Jakarta and nearly 40 percent of the land in East Timor. Over US$73 billion is said to have passed through the family’s hands during Suharto’s 32-year rule.
On May 29, 2000, Suharto was placed under house arrest when Indonesian authorities began to investigate the corruption during his regime. In July, it was announced that he was to be accused of embezzling US$571 million of government donations to one of a number of foundations under his control and then using the money to finance family investments. But in September court-appointed doctors announced that he could not stand trial because of his declining health. State prosecutors tried again in 2002 but then doctors cited an unspecified brain disease.
According to Transparency International, Suharto embezzled more money than any other world leader in history with the estimated US $15–35 billion embezzlement during his 32 years rule.
•Health and attempts at prosecution
Since resigning from the presidency, Suharto has been hospitalized repeatedly for stroke, heart, and intestinal problems. These conditions have affected the many attempts to prosecute Suharto on charges of corruption and human rights violations, as his lawyers have repeatedly and successfully claimed that the conditions render him unfit for trial. Various opponents and aggrieved parties have charged that Suharto is malingering, and complained of the hypocrisy of the mercy shown toward him.
On 6 May 2005, Suharto was taken to Pertamina Hospital in Jakarta with intestinal bleeding, believed to be from diverticulosis. The political elite of Indonesia, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, visited his bedside. He was released and returned home, May 12, 2005.
On 26 May 2005, the Jakarta Post reported that amid an effort by the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to crack down on corruption, Indonesian Attorney General Abdurrahman Saleh appeared before a Parliamentary commission to discuss efforts to prosecute New Order figures, including Suharto. Attorney General Abdurrahman remarked that he hoped Suharto could recover so that the government could begin inquiries into New Order human rights violations and corruption for purposes of compensation and recovery of state funds, but expressed skepticism that this would be possible. As a result, the Supreme Court of Indonesia has issued a decree making the office of the Attorney General responsible for supervising Suharto’s medical care.
On 24 April 2006, Attorney General Abdurrahman announced that a team of twenty doctors would be asked to evaluate Suharto’s health and fitness for trial. One physician, Brigadier General Dr Marjo Subiandono, stated his doubts about by noting that “[Suharto] has two permanent cerebral defects.” In a later Financial Times report, Attorney General Abdurrahman discussed the re-examination, and called it part of a “last opportunity” to prosecute Suharto criminally. Attorney General Abdurrahman left open the possibility of filing suit against the Suharto estate.”
On 4 May 2006, Suharto was again admitted to Pertamina Hospital for intestinal bleeding. His doctors stated further that Suharto was suffering from partial organ failure and in unstable condition.
•Related legal cases
Unable to prosecute Suharto, the state has instead pursued legal actions against his former subordinates and members of his family. Suharto’s son Hutomo Mandala Putra, more widely known as Tommy Suharto, was initially sentenced to fifteen years in jail for arranging the murder of a judge who sentenced him to eighteen months for his role in a land scam in September 2000. He became the first member of the Suharto family to be found guilty and jailed for a criminal offence. Tommy Suharto maintained his innocence, and won a reduction of his sentence to ten years in June 2005. On October 30, 2006 he was freed on “conditional release”. BBC
In 2003, Suharto’s half-brother Probosutedjo was tried and convicted for corrupt practices that lost a total of $10 million from the Indonesian state. He was sentenced to four years in jail. He later won a reduction of his sentence to two years, initiating a probe by the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission into the alleged scandal of the “judicial mafia” which uncovered offers of $600,000 to various judges. Probosutedjo confessed to the scheme in October 2005, leading to the arrest of his lawyers. He later had his full four year term reinstated. After a brief standoff at a hospital, in which he was reportedly protected by a group of police officers, he was arrested on 30 November 2005.
Many Indonesians will say Suharto was great because he kept the price of rice and petrol down. People often say ‘Suharto took care of problems’, meaning people. During his time in power Indonesia did advance economically, but in many ways the Indonesian people were held at a lower living standard than was necessary.