Suharto takes full power in Indonesia

Suharto takes full power in Indonesia

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On February 22, 1967, Indonesian President Sukarno surrenders all executive authority to military dictator General Haji Mohammad Suharto, remaining president in title only.

In 1965, Suharto, a senior army officer, narrowly saved Sukarno from a communist coup. In the aftermath, he moved to replace Sukarno and launched a purge of Indonesian communists that resulted in thousands of deaths. In 1967, he assumed full power and in 1968 was elected president. Reelected every five years until his forced resignation in 1998, Suharto stabilized his nation and oversaw significant economic progress. However, he was criticized for his repressive rule and for Indonesia’s 1975 invasion of East Timor, which left an estimated 100,000 Timorese dead from famine, disease, and warfare. Suharto died in 2008.

Early life and education

Sukarno was the only son of a poor Javanese schoolteacher, Raden Sukemi Sosrodihardjo, and his Balinese wife, Ida Njoman Rai. Originally named Kusnasosro, he was given a new and, it was hoped, more auspicious name, Sukarno, after a series of illnesses. Known to his childhood playmates as Djago (Cock, Champion) for his looks, spirits, and prowess, he was as an adult best known as Bung Karno (bung, “brother” or “comrade”), the revolutionary hero and architect of merdeka (“independence”).

Sukarno spent long periods of his childhood with his grandparents in the village of Tulungagung, where he was exposed to the animism and mysticism of serene rural Java. There he became a lifelong devotee of wayang, the puppet shadow plays based on the Hindu epics, as animated and narrated by a master puppeteer, who could hold an audience spellbound through an entire night. As a youth of 15, Sukarno was sent to secondary school in Surabaya and to lodgings in the home of Omar Said Tjokroaminoto, a prominent civic and religious figure. Tjokroaminoto treated him as a cherished foster son and protégé, financed his further education, and eventually married him off at age 20 to his own 16-year-old daughter, Siti Utari.

As a student, Sukarno chose to excel mainly in languages. He mastered Javanese, Sundanese, Balinese, and modern Indonesian, which, in fact, he did much to create. He also acquired Arabic, which, as a Muslim, he learned by study of the Qurʾān Dutch, the language of his education German French English and, later, Japanese. In Tjokroaminoto’s home he came to meet emerging leaders who spanned the rapidly widening national political spectrum, from feudal princelings to fugitive communist conspirators. The eclectic syncretism of the Tjokroaminoto ménage, like the romance and mysticism of wayang, imprinted itself indelibly upon Sukarno’s mind and personality. He was later to treat nation-making as a heroic theatrical, in which the clash of irreconcilable men and ideas could be harmonized through sheer poetic magic—his own.

Endowed with commanding presence, radiant personality, mellifluous voice, vivid style, a photographic memory, and supreme self-confidence, Sukarno was obviously destined for greatness. In 1927 in Bandung, where he had just acquired a degree in civil engineering, he found his true calling in oratory and politics. He soon revealed himself as a man of charisma and destiny.

Sukarno’s amours were almost as renowned as his oratory. He divorced Siti in 1923 and married Inggit Garnisih, divorcing her in 1943 and marrying Fatmawati, with whom he had five children, including his eldest son, Guntur Sukarnaputra (b. 1944). As a Muslim, Sukarno was entitled to four wives, so he took several more wives in the following decades.


The veteran Australian author and broadcaster, John Pilger, explains in his trenchant piece on Suharto (Guardian 28 January) that it was none other than the US embassy in Jakarta that supplied the general in 1965 with a &ldquozap list&rdquo of Indonesian Communist Party members &ldquoand crossed off the names when they were captured or killed&rdquo. He goes on to quote a senior CIA operations officer in the 1960s who describes the terror of Suharto&rsquos takeover in 1965-66 as &ldquothe model operation&rdquo for the US-backed coup that got rid of Salvadore Allende in Chile seven years later. Pilger also quotes a BBC correspondent at the time, who revealed the British government&rsquos secret but very practical involvement in this slaughter – giving armed naval protection to Indonesian forces participating in it. &ldquoThere was a deal, you see&rdquo, says Roland Challis!

&ldquoThe deal&rdquo, Pilger explains, &ldquowas that Indonesia under Suharto would offer up what Richard Nixon called &lsquothe richest hoard of natural resources, the greatest prize in South East Asia&rsquo&rdquo The deal was done at a conference in Geneva, sponsored by Time-Life Corporation, led by David Rockefeller and with all the major corporate giants, major oil companies and banks in on the carve up – General Motors, Imperial Chemical Industries, British American Tobacco, Siemens, US Steel and many others.

From then on, according to the International Herald Tribune (28 January), &ldquoThe United States rewarded him (Suharto) with a foreign aid program which amounted to more than 𔚼 billion a year in economic support and � million in military credits.&rdquo A team of largely American-educated economists and technocrats (swiftly dubbed the Berkeley Mafia since a number had attended Berkeley University in California) was put in charge of the economy under instruction to create a &lsquonew order&rsquo.

On the same theme, Gittings&rsquo obituary in the Guardian exposes how, &ldquoSuharto gained his biggest reward for destroying the Indonesian left when he invaded East Timor in December 1975 – just one day after US president Gerald Ford and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger had dined with the Indonesian leader in Jakarta. As secret documents…would reveal, Suharto asked for US &lsquounderstanding&rsquo&rdquo. This he got from Ford but Kissinger simply added that &ldquo&rsquoit would be better if it were done after we returned [to the United States]&rsquo&rdquo!

After the genocide in East Timor was perpetrated – the killing of nearly a third of the population with the aid of British-supplied aircraft and machine guns – Margaret Thatcher described Suharto as &ldquoone of our best and most valuable friends&rdquo. The World Bank described Suharto as a &ldquomodel pupil&rdquo. Indonesia received the biggest bail-out loan – 󌍛 billion – from the IMF at the time of the Asian crisis of 1997-8. But nothing could save the rotten Suharto dictatorship, once the mass movement had gathered its unstoppable force, Suharto&rsquos friends exerted pressure on him to step aside in the interests of saving capitalism, and all their very real interests in Indonesia.

All this explains why, as Pilger puts it, &ldquoSuharto, unlike Saddam Hussein, died not on the gallows but surrounded by the finest medical team his secret billions could buy&rdquo.

Suharto’s Shadow Still Lingers in Indonesian Museums

“New Order” history is a sensitive topic as Indonesia’s presidential election approaches.

Members of the Youth Wing of the Indonesian Communist Party (Pemuda Rakjat) are guarded by soldiers as they are taken by open truck to prison in Jakarta, Oct. 30, 1965.

Museums and history books rarely factor into presidential politics. But as Indonesia’s presidential election approaches, they have become sites of political anxiety. All of this is due to the ongoing legacy of the Suharto regime’s 32 years of political manipulation. Two decades into the democratic restoration known as “Reformasi,” the shadow of the dictatorial New Order still darkens public discourse on crucial aspects of Indonesian history.

As a historian researching Southeast Asian Cold War museums, I inadvertently stumbled into this still hotly contested terrain.

Museums and the New Order Narrative

A miniature diorama of rebel soldiers throwing a murdered officer in a well at Lubang Buaya in the early hours of October 1, 1965. Photo by Michael G. Vann.

On the night of September 30-October 1, 1965, a bungled coup attempt by disgruntled mid-level officers resulted in the death of six generals, a lieutenant, and the one surviving general’s young daughter. A faction of rabidly anti-communist officers, led by Suharto, used the murders as a pretext to launch a campaign to destroy the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Within six months, the Indonesian National Army (TNI), working with allied religious organizations and criminal gangs, slaughtered upwards of a million PKI members and fellow travelers, the vast majority unarmed civilians. A larger number of party members, union organizers, feminists, intellectuals, and family members were detained for over a decade in brutal conditions in island prisons such as Pulau Buru. Even after release, they suffered legal and social discrimination as their identification cards were marked “EKS-TAPOL” (“former political prisoner”).

To justify the bloodshed and his insubordinate seizure of power, Suharto promoted the myth that the People’s Republic of China was arming a massive PKI militia in preparation for a communist takeover. For the next generation, the New Order used this lie and the dark fantasy that an underground PKI might seek revenge to legitimize military rule and the Suharto family’s kleptocracy. Only Suharto and the TNI could protect the nation from the ongoing threat, the narrative went.

An array of propaganda tools — including annual ceremonies, required film viewings, and street naming — repeated the story of the martyred generals and the alleged danger of the PKI plotting in the shadows. Suharto established the Pusat Sejarah TNI, the Army History Center. Run by loyalists from the officer corps, the Pusat Sejarah TNI published official histories of the alleged coup and opened two major museums, Museum Pengkhianatan PKI (Komunis) (“the Museum of the Indonesian Communist Party’s Treachery”) in the Pancasila Sakti (Sacred National Ideology) monument complex at Lubang Buaya (“Crocodile Hole”) and the Satriamandala Museum.

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Located on the site where the murdered generals’ bodies were literally thrown down a well, the former presents the history of the PKI as a long-term threat to Indonesia. Dozens of miniature and life size dioramas depict conspiratorial PKI meetings and violent direct actions such as land seizures, attacks on mosques, and menacing demonstrations. A bilingual sign marked “clothing and traces of blood” directs visitors to the “Room for relics and other historical effects,” which houses photographs of the victims, their personal effects (some marked “replica”), and the blood-stained clothing they were wearing when they were killed.

Display of General Ahmad Yani’s personal effects, including the blood stained pants he was wearing when murdered. One of the photos is from a 1984 docudrama and not an original image. Another graphic photo is his exhumed body. Photo by Michael G. Vann.

As the name suggests, the museum’s ideological message is heavy handed. The graphic violence of the displays leaves little room for nuance. Importantly, the narrative stops with the funeral for the martyred officers on National Armed Forces Day, October 5, 1965. There is no discussion of the subsequent anti-communist slaughter and mass incarceration. Indeed, aside from Balinese activist I Gusti Ketut Agung’s privately owned Taman 65, there are no memorial to the victims of one of 20th centuries greatest politicides.

Satriamandala (which can be translated from Sanskrit as “A Sacred Place for Knights”), opened in 1972, tells the history of the TNI from its beginnings under Japanese supervision during the Pacific War through military campaigns and relief missions in the 1990s. It houses an impressive collection of weapons, photographs, dioramas, statues, and historical artifacts. Outside, the grounds contain tanks, planes, helicopters, artillery pieces, an armored personnel carrier, and a patrol boat. In 1987, a new wing was opened. Drawing from Javanese, Waspada Purbawisesa can be translated as “Museum of Eternal Vigilance.” Set apart from the main buildings, this structure houses a research library on the upper floors. But the main drawn has been the dozens of dioramas on the second floor devoted to TNI actions against radical Islamist groups. They depict military campaigns against the widespread Darul Islam rebellion of the 1950s, the 1981 high jacking of Garuda flight 206, and the 1985 bombing of Borobudur.

Surprisingly, major events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and of Suharto in 1998 did not lead to revisions of either museum. Suharto expanded the Museum of PKI Treachery in 1992. In 2013 a new wing with life size depictions of the death of Ade Nasution was added. Elsewhere in Jakarta, in 2008 Nasution’s home became a museum, following the precedent of turning General Ahmad Yani’s home into a museum on October 1, 1966. In the Yani home a roped off plaque marks the exact spot of the general’s death. Without a new national narrative, Reformasi Indonesia has clung to the New Order mythology.

In the Ahmad Yani Museum, visitors can see the spot in which the general bled to death. Liquor bottles and wine glasses have recently been removed from the bar, and a poster covers up an alcohol themed mural. Artificial flowers and other mementos further disguise the bar. Photo by Michael G. Vann.

A Year of Visiting Museums Dangerously

For decades, both museums welcomed tens of thousands of visitors a year, the vast majority school children on patriotic field trips. While the occasional foreigner might make it to Satriamandala as it is not far from a neighborhood with many expats, few venture out to the suburban Lubang Buaya site. On my various visits over the past decade I’ve been the subject of much friendly curiosity and asked to pose in dozens of selfies and group photos.

However, in November 2017, I was denied entry to Lubang Buaya. A laminated sign stated that “for a moment, visitors from abroad are not allowed to enter/visit Pancasila Sakti Monument before having permit from headquarter [sic.].” Confused by this, especially as a bus load of school children was allowed in, I asked the guards for clarification. Embarrassed by the situation, they tried to be helpful. I persuaded them to show me the orders and let me speak to their equally embarrassed superior officers. Later in the day, I visited the Nasution Museum but the atmosphere was decidedly tense. An armed soldier escorted me through the site and inexplicably denied me access to a room displaying a collection of antique guns. Unlike previous visits where I was encouraged to pose next to a life size statue of Ade dying in her mother’s arms, selfies were out of the question. At the Yani home and Satriamandala, the museum staff politely but firmly denied me access, even as another boisterous group of school children entered the military museum.

Even in front of some of the most gruesome displays of alleged PKI violence, most visitors are in a festive mood and eager to grab a photograph with the rare foreign visitor — when foreigners are permitted to enter, of course. Photo by Michael G. Vann.

Having just started a major research project on depictions of violence in Southeast Asian Cold War era museums, I continued to press the issue. Officials in the office of the director of museums were perplexed by the news and assured me that I should be able to enter. However, a few phone calls to the TNI headquarters confirmed the foreigner ban and seemed to visibly annoy the civilian staff. After leaving my card in several offices, I received a JPEG of the secret order from an anonymous email account. Evidently, on February 21, 2017 Major General Benny Indra Pujihastono of military intelligence circulated a memo barring foreign nationals from TNI museums. Later I was told that if the American Embassy in Jakarta could provide a “security clearance” I could visit these public museums. Embassy officials had no idea what I was talking about. As I brought the matter to the attention of the international community of scholars of Indonesia on social media, the consensus was that several recently published and forthcoming books on the violence of 1965-1966 had made the TNI nervous about the museums’ dated ideology. After weeks of dead ends, I gave an interview to a local journalist. When the article was published, the TNI quietly rescinded the decree.

Meanwhile, Indonesian national politics were increasingly embroiled in a contrived scandal in which Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (“Ahok”), then the governor of Jakarta and an ally of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, was alleged to have profaned Islam. Despite the video evidence being clearly edited, massive demonstrations paralyzed the capital and Ahok, an ethnic Chinese and a Christian, was convicted of blasphemy.

Anti-Ahok activists conflated Islamic identity politics with Sinophobia and anti-communism. As the nation entered into the 2019 election cycle, social media rumors and other forms of fake news claimed that Jokowi himself was PKI. Suharto’s New Order mythology was once again casting its shadow over the nation.

Raided Liquor Cabinets and Book Stores

When I returned to Jakarta in January 2019, there was no problem entering the museums. However, I found a number of subtle and not-so-subtle changes in the displays. At Lubang Buaya, the diorama of the murder of Ahamd Yani had been altered. Hailed as a true hero of the night of September 30, Yani is said to have given the kidnappers a dressing down, slapped one, and slammed the door in their face, only to be shot in the back through the glass door. He bled to death on the floor in front of his well-stocked bar. As his death was made famous in the state commissioned four-and-a-half hour docudrama, many Indonesians have seen Yani’s bar. A classic example of mid-century interior design, the bar has a stylish mural depicting a wine decanter and other drinking vessels.

A miniature diorama of General Ahmad Yani’s murder. Shot in the back through a glass door, the general died on the floor in front of his well stocked bar. This photograph was taken in 2013. Photo by Michael G. Vann.

Sadly for the deceased general, his bar has been raided. At Lubang Buaya, the miniature liquor bottles have been pulled from the diorama. In the Yani home, not only is the bar dry but the mural has been awkwardly covered up with a poster-size reproduction of his daughter’s hagiographic biography, Profile of a Soldier. The bar itself is cluttered with artificial flowers, a bust, and various mementos in an amateurish effort to hide its real purpose. Evidently, despite the widespread knowledge that the macho soldier enjoyed a good drink, the museums have been purged of alcohol so as not to offend Islamic sensibilities.

The photo on the left, taken in 2013, highlights the miniature liquor bottles visible in Yani’s bar. In the photo on the right, from January 2019, his bar has been purged so as not to offend Islamic sensibilities. Photos by Michael G. Vann.

At Satriamandala, the concessions towards Islamic identity politics go much further. While once again open to Indonesians and foreigners, the Waspada Purbawisesa building is closed to all. When I visited the site on a Thursday afternoon, I found the front door unlocked but the lobby and reception unstaffed. As I ventured upstairs, I discovered the second floor to be in a state of disrepair with most of the lights turned off. About half of the dioramas and their accompanying bilingual explanations depicting the TNI campaigns against Islamist rebels and terrorist organizations had been removed. Evidently, the commemoration of anti-Islamist military campaigns is not appropriate for the contemporary political climate.

Meanwhile, outside of the museums, in January 2019 TNI officers led raids on bookstores. First in Padang, West Sumatra, and then in Kediri, East Java, and Karakan, North Kalimantan, soldiers seized titles related to the history of the 1960s. Both the TNI and the national Attorney General’s Office have suggested much larger raids throughout the archipelago, claiming that the books promoted communism and could revive the PKI. Anyone who has read the books in question would challenge this interpretation. That the books are not formally banned by the government makes these arbitrary raids even more worrisome.

As the nation moves toward a hotly contested election, paranoia over the New Order’s historical narrative is alive and well in Indonesia.

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Politics of Indonesia

Indonesia is a constitutional democracy. After the fall of president Suharto's prolonged authoritarian New Order regime in 1998 various constitutional amendments were made in order to reduce effective power of the country's executive branch, thus making a new dictatorship almost impossible.

Indonesia is now characterized by popular sovereignty manifested in parliamentary and presidential elections every five years. Starting from the fall of Suharto's New Order, which marked the beginning of the Reformation period, every election in Indonesia is regarded to be free and fair. However, the nation is not free from corruption, nepotism, collusion as well as money-politics through which power or political positions can be bought. For example, the poorer segments of Indonesian society are 'encouraged' to vote for a specific presidential candidate on election day by being handed some small money at the ballot box. Such strategies persist and are used by all involved sides (which - in some respects - makes it a fair battle and thus different from the New Order era).

We consider such issues to be part of Indonesia's growing process towards becoming a full democracy (currently - based on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index - the nation is still regarded as a flawed democracy). It needs to be emphasized here that Indonesia constitutes a young democracy and therefore experiences growing pains.

Political conditions are important for those who seek to invest or engage in business relations with Indonesia. In this section we present an overview of Indonesia's current political composition as well as overviews of the key chapters in the country's political history.

General Political Outline of Indonesia

This section concerns Indonesia's current political system. It discusses the role that religion (in particular Islam) plays in political decision-making and provides a brief outline of Indonesia's separation of powers (trias politica), namely the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Currently, Joko Widodo's Working Cabinet (2014-present) is in office. It will govern up to 2019 when new parliamentary and presidential elections will be held.

Pre-Colonial Period of Indonesia

Sources indicate that the archipelago contained multiple political entities from early on in its history. These various entities slowly evolved from political centers around individuals whose leadership was legitimized by the possession of certain skills and charisma to leaders who legitimized their hold on power by claiming to be godlike figures equipped with supernatural powers, supported by paid armies and a population that paid tribute to the king.

Colonial Period of Indonesia

The arrival of the Europeans, attracted by the promising perspectives of the spice trade, is one of the major watersheds in the history of the archipelago. Having more advanced technology and weaponry at hand, the Portuguese and - in particular - the Dutch succeeded in becoming influential economic and political powers that would ultimately dominate the archipelago and laid down new political frameworks and boundaries.

Soekarno's Old Order

Soekarno, Indonesia's first president, is rightfully seen as the icon of the nationalist struggle against the colonizers. But after independence had finally been achieved, he faced the difficult task of guiding a new nation, plagued by traumas from the past and conflicts of political and social forces in the present. It proved to be a too daunting task for the young and inexperienced generation of Indonesian politicians, resulting in the chaotic middle years of the 1960s.

Suharto's New Order

Suharto, Indonesia's second president, managed to rise to power during the turbulent 1960s. His New Order government, that was characterized by both economic development (resulting in an admirable poverty reduction) and suppression as well as corruption, would rule Indonesia for more than thirty years. However, when the booming domestic economy - the main pillar of his legitimacy - collapsed in the late 1990s, Suharto quickly lost control of power.

Reformation Period of Indonesia

After decades of authoritarian rule, Indonesian politics were to be reformed in order to give the Indonesian people more power in the process of political and economic decision making. This new period is known as the period of Reformation and is marked by structural changes (such as the decentralization of power to the regions and limits to the power of the presidency), but also marked by continuities (such as the continuation of corruption, poverty and clustering of capital at society's elite).

Current Cabinet of Indonesia

This section displays an up-to-date list of members in President Joko Widodo's current cabinet - called the Working Cabinet - which was inaugurated on 27 October 2014 and is expected to govern until 2019 when new elections will be held. Widodo is allowed to participate in the presidential elections of 2019 as the constitution allows two terms (each covering a five-year period) to the Indonesian presidency. Since the inauguration there have been made several changes to the composition of the Working Cabinet.

The Untold Story of Indonesian Deforestation

I was born and raised in a small and tranquil village not far away from the Bukit Tiga Puluh National Park, in Jambi, Indonesia. My morning bathing rituals in the longest river in Sumatra, Batanghari, were accompanied by the wonderful calling of gibbons from treetops in the jungle on the other side of the river. In the evenings, hanging parrots livened up the front yard of my parents’ house, while a flock of magpies sang cheerfully from the langsat trees nearby. My weekends were adventurous as my father used to take me to the pristine rainforest of Bukit Tiga Puluh to collect rattans, resin, and dragon’s blood from the forest’s inhabitants, the jungle people of Jambi.

But those unforgettable moments have now become history, disappearing forever thanks to deforestation.

In the early 1970s, my village and many other villages in Sumatra and Kalimantan were included in Suharto’s national development project to become home bases for hundreds of logging companies . Social and environmental impacts were not among the authoritarian general’s considerations.

Hopes were high when Suharto was unseated by the students’ vengeful demonstration in 1998, but his downfall did not bring much change. In the so called reformation (reformasi) era not only did more logging companies pour into my village and other forest areas throughout Indonesia, but they were joined by mining companies and agricultural firms. The consequence was clear: more trees were cut down.

Under centralized Suharto the rate of deforestation was between 550,000 and 1.7 million hectares a year under a decentralized system the rate is now 2.8 million hectares annually. The cause is that, unlike under the Suharto regime, regents now have more control in issuing permits to clear the forest. Village heads are also given more room from the central government to “manage” the forest in their regions.

This authority paves the way for local leaders to sell the forest to plantation and mining firms illegally. The motives are varied, from just enriching themselves to getting their political candidacies financed by the firms in exchange for forest clearance permits. The former regent of Palalawan in Riau Province, Tengku Azmun Jaafar, was arrested by the Indonesian Anti-Corruption Body (KPK) for cashing in on forest licenses given to 15 companies in 2001. In Central Kalimantan, as stated by Governor Sugianto Sabran, a former regent in control of up to 15 mining permits sold them to Indian and Chinese businesses. In South Sulawesi, a village head of Tompo Bolu was detained for unlawfully converting protected forest for his personal use. The suspended regent of Kutai Kartanegara in East Kalimantan allegedly bartered a concession permit for cash to fund her political ambitions.

In 2013, I was involved in a collaborative research project on the Failures and Interventions on Agricultural Markets, which took place in five regencies within the province of Jambi. We traveled to hundreds of villages, including to the forest area I had walked with my father 20 years ago, Bukit Tiga Puluh. I could not believe what my eyes witnessed: the gigantic trees, the noisy sounds of the forest inhabitants, and the jungle people were all gone and replaced by mining sites, rubber trees, and palm fruit industries.

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While forests have proven successful in enriching a few corporations and political leaders, this does not contribute significantly to the welfare of the people living around it. The Indonesian Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) reported that in 2016 there were more than 6.2 million people living in poverty near and within forest areas of Sumatra. In Jambi, the number was over 174.000 , which of course includes my fellow villagers. Our research trips confirmed the data the residents in the villages we visited lived a starkly contrasting life to the village heads, who mostly owned fancy houses, luxury cars, and lots of assets.

The Indonesian Anti-Corruption Body (KPK) states that this failure results from, in addition to the corrupted practices by local officials, the uneven proportion of forest utilization between companies and local people. Whereas the former have a control of 41.69 million hectares of Indonesian forest, the latter only have 1 percent . In Jambi, 70 percent of its vast forest area has been granted to corporations. This unequal share has raised tension in many resource-rich areas in Indonesia, making the country number one in land conflicts in the world.

Poverty provokes anger and when both elements are incorporated disaster awaits. It is both poverty and fury that motivated people to cut trees illegally soon after Suharto was removed. They had been sick and tired of seeing guests taking over their wealth thus, they concluded, securing the remaining trees from those outsiders was the best option. As a result, in the first 10 years after Suharto regime illegal logging became the number one factor behind forest destruction in Indonesia.

Not only that, poverty is also responsible for shaping people’s perception about wild animals’ economic value. In the village, people consider beautiful birds or any other animal obtained from the forest as a source of money as they usually command high prices on the black market. The sense of commodification, however, does not originate from the village but from outside. I still remember how a school teacher from the regency nearby told us that he could buy the untouched magpies in the village at a premium price. Not long afterwards, villagers would rush to hunt the beautiful birds and now magpies are completely extinct from my village. Protected animals such as pangolins, freshwater turtles, or white-rumped Shamas are also purchased by buyers from the city, making the forest area in my village a contributor to Indonesia’s status as the champion of the wildlife trade in Southeast Asia.

I tried my best to deal with the despair of losing the beautiful rainforest and wild animals from my village until one day I did an internship at the Sydney Taronga Zoo. I was shocked to learn that the tiger at the zoo was a Sumatran tiger taken from the forest area of the Bukit Tiga Puluh National Park. All of a sudden, memories about my childhood popped back into my head: the gibbon’s morning calls, the birds, the forest. They all seemed so close to me but yet so far.

Søren Kierkegaard was right when he said that “life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards.”

Muhammad Beni Saputra is an Indonesian writer and lecturer at the State Islamic University Sulthan Thaha Saifudin Jambi, Indonesia.

The Heroism of General Suharto of Indonesia:

Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous nation. Yet, it’s a blank spot to even educated Americans. Because of this widespread ignorance, ideologically motivated historians and journalists can say anything and be believed. This writer has termed this “Johnson’s Law.” It states, “the more obscure a nation, the more lies can be safely told about it.” This concerns mainstream Anglo-American writers and “political analysts.” Johnson’s Law only has force when ideological considerations are at stake. Here, Indonesia is a completely unknown land that was a battleground of Communism versus Nationalism. Therefore, the Law implies, the lies will be huge ones.

General Suharto (occasionally rendered Muhammad Soeharto, 1921-2008) ruled this country successfully from 1967 to 1998. Like so many other military leaders, he was born to a poor family under foreign occupation. His military mettle was proved in the long war against the Dutch occupiers. The result was a deep connection between the army and the people.

Suharto like all anti-Communist leaders worldwide without exception, is accused of massacres and “human rights abuses.” This supposedly led to the deaths of 500,000 “innocent people” in an anti-Communist purge. Given that soldiers don’t kill their own people for no good reason, this long standing claim needs to be analyzed. Suharto inherited a country on the brink of disaster and needed to take very strong measures to save it. He was successful. He is Asia’s political savior.

In 1965, the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) was the third largest in the world. Its military wing was directed personally by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and was receiving Chinese weapons freely under former President Sukarno (1901-1970). On September 30 1965, younger elements in the military, much of it loyal to the left, staged a coup in which six Army generals were shot.

The coup plotters stated that it was to fight a non-existent “council of generals” the CIA was forming to takeover Indonesia. The PKI issued a letter accepting this and standing in solidarity with it. Yet, leftists insist that Suharto himself staged this coup so he would have to squash it as a pretext for power. “Conspiracy theories” are apparently no problem in this case.

After independence from the Netherlands in 1945, the first president was Sukarno (Indonesians from Java only use one name). His successor was Gen. Suharto, meaning there were only two presidents from 1945 to 1998. Sukarno was trying to be all things to all men, but he clearly leaned towards the left given Chinese generosity to his country and military. This attempted coup sparked uprisings from Army bases all over Indonesia since it seemed the Chinese Communists were going to take over. The military was opposed to the PKI largely because of its union with China.

In the 1950s, the Chinese-trained Communists had largely taken over the civil service. In the 1960s, the Marines and Air Force were heavily infiltrated by supporters of Maoism (Mortimer, 1974). Indonesia was heading towards provincial status in a Maoist empire. This would have been a bloody future. The Communists were heavily armed and well organized, which strongly suggests Chinese influence, money and guns (Mortimer, 1974).

In the 1960s, the full knowledge of Mao’s Cultural Revolution was known to everyone but Americans journalists. While strangely avoided in mainstream treatments of the 1965 coup attempt, it is an essential fact. Millions of Chinese were killed by Red Guards since Gen. Chaing Kai-shek was defeated due to a shift in American support, as always, to the left. In addition, the mainstream histories also include the ritualistic descriptions of raping kids, slaughtering old people, etc. – all for no reason.

The “Great Leap Forward” in China began in 1958 and ended roughly in1962. Its results were well known globally by 1965. This was the true face of Mao. The point was to rapidly transform China from an agrarian country into a industrial one. This was China’s collectivization drive that killed about 20 million people, with the lowest estimate at 18 million. No one denies this. This author has failed to find the PKI’s condemnation of this policy.

Yu Xiguang and Tao Yang puts it at 50 million. The economy naturally collapsed. This is why the PKI was hunted and attacked. This is what they wanted to do in Indonesia and the authors, hacks and activists crying over the dead Communists are all aware of this.

In Indonesia, the violence against the Communists was popular, and was directed at the Chinese as well as the left in general. Being Islamic, militant Islam was an ally of the Army at this time. In fact, “the Army” or “Suharto” cannot be blamed for the excesses of the population in dealing with local leftist strongmen. However, precise details will never be known.

No western journalists were present at the time and almost no one knew anything about Indonesia. No pictures seem to exist of this “mass slaughter.” Yet, with utter certainty, the professors say that “between 600,000 and a 25 million Indonesians were killed by the Army for no reason other than their lust for gain.” The truth is that Suharto fought a low level civil war to bring order to a fractured nation.

The Army estimates that about 78,000 were killed in fierce fighting between the Army and the Marines, joined by Communist cells both within and without the armed services. This makes far more sense, since soldiers rarely kill their own. The facts of the case bear this out. Indonesia would have been an incredible prize for Chinese Communists, so it was high on their list of priorities at the time. If Indonesia fell to the PKI, so would have Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia.

One more humorous source of information is the Communist “International People’s Tribunal,” hardly a reliable source, claimed that “millions and millions” were killed by Suharto. The reasons are not given other than “anti communism was a pretext for absolute power.” Their evidence is almost entirely anecdotal and the language used is highly emotional and polemical. Yet this group is often cited as authority for Suharto’s “genocide.”

The Dutch Marxists held their “People’s Tribunal” near the Hague in the Netherlands to allow them to say that “The Hague” has found “Indonesia” guilty of these crimes. It should be noted that this group has nothing to do with the International Court at the Hague, but they went out of their way to create this association in the public mind.

They sought to have an actual trial, but since very few of their witnesses were there at the time and there was no defense, their “findings” are absurd. They heard testimony from 20 witnesses that could not be cross examined, most of whom were not in Indonesia in 1965-1966. Further, these are “expert” witnesses, not eyewitnesses. Almost the entire “prosecution” was non-Indonesian.

There is nothing spoken by Suharto’s enemies that couldn’t be said about any civil war or period of unrest. What little of the witness testimony is reproduced in their report, what is reprinted is stylized leftist rhetoric, not a chronicle of events. The Army’s position was never heard, since the governments do not normally respond to private leftist groups demands to “debate.” The “Tribunal” is not associated with any government or the European Union. It’s a group of rich leftists demanding to be recognized as a “court.” This doesn’t keep dishonest journalists from saying “The Hague tribunal has found Indonesia guilty.” CNN’s headline for June 21 2016 is “Hague Tribunal Finds Indonesia Guilty of 1965 Genocide.” They treat this as if it is a government body.

This theater of the absurd did not question the massacres, but only asked themselves who was responsible. The “prosecution” was made up of mostly foreign leftists with no connection to Indonesia at all. Each and every one hated the Indonesian military long before they ever walked from the faculty lounge to the restaurant near the Hague at which this event was held.

Without the ability to cross examine, simple questions could not be put to witnesses like, “Why would soldiers, almost all of whom just fought the Dutch for independence, kill innocent people?” No normal soldier wants to kill even enemy soldiers, let alone their own innocent people. Even militant veterans shudder when they speak of killing armed, trained enemies. Yet, these men slaughtered for no reason? And their own people? Its absurd.

Even simple questions like “Why would the Army deliberately outrage the public? Do they enjoy being hated?” or “Is knowledge of the Chinese Cultural Revolution relevant here?” or “What of Chinese assistance to the Communists and the Communist takeover of the Marines?” are not asked or mentioned. Indonesia had just won its independence. Because of that, the link between the Army and the population was strong. Are we to believe that they wanted to destroy that bond for no reason?

Most of the “report” of this leftist group deals with human rights law and very little on the factual information from the era. Admitting their ignorance, the “Tribunal” often conflates those in prison with those dead. It is extremely sloppy and ideological. The “judges,” who are all private citizens, state “The judges have had particular regard to the fact that there is no credible material disputing the occurrence of these grave violations of human rights. . .” In other words, since there is no document that says “no massacres took place in 1965,” then it must have occurred.

It was a civil war in 1965. Indonesia was coming apart. The Army responded to a very numerous, armed and well organized Communist militia. In typical leftist fashion, the Tribunal’s report is an arrogant, pseudo-official statement of a few foreign leftists saying that the US, assisting the Indonesian military at the time with small arms and training, was complicit in these mass killings. The US supported the Army under Sukarno too, to the anger of the Dutch, who were NATO members. There was no large scale support of the Indonesian Army at all.

The motive of these leftists is clear. Had Suharto not taken control of the Army and thus the country, there is a very good chance the USSR and/or the Chinese would have taken Jakarta. With the world’s fourth largest country under their control, the rest of southeast Asia would fall, including the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore. There would be pressure on Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. History would look quite different and the body count much higher.

On October 18 2017, the State Department declassified 39 documents from the US Embassy in Jakarta, the capital, in 1965-1966. Its no accident that Suharto’s son, Tommy, announced his candidacy for presidency just a few months earlier. The New York Times said breathlessly that they prove “500,000 were killed.” They are hoping no one bothers to read them. They say no such thing. Indonesians were reporting to the US that a civil war was going on, not mass murder. In fact, Document 18 states that Islamic imams were demanding that anyone who “consciously joined the PKI be killed.”

Almost every single document mentions PKI “defeats,” that is, losses in war. The PKI was armed, as Communist movements are. Document 24 makes mention of “purges in the Air Force.” It is then clear that the PKI had infiltrated the armed forces. Document 30 shows Chinese Communists working closely with the PKI, as could be expected.

Document 33 decries the “rumors” of “mass killings” that “missionaries” have been spreading. It states clearly that there is no evidence whatsoever for random, mass killings. The Army wanted calm. Document 34 speaks of an Army “clampdown” in different areas with substantial local support. Document 36 speaks of the threat of Islamic groups seeking a caliphate on certain islands. The final document, 39, shows Ambassador Green estimating Suharto’s popular support at maybe 45 percent, with Sukarno in the low 30s.

PKI chief Dipa Nusantara Aidit (1923-1965) was going back and forth to Peking in 1964 and 1965. Aidit said that his enemies, in the coming months, “will be cast into oblivion” (Mortimer, 1974). Soon afterwards, anti-Communist newspapers were banned.

It is an uninteresting fact that Aidit sought a peaceful growth to power. Sukarno was his patron, so this was possible. Communism often uses popular fronts but they are temporary. Marxists ideologically cannot share power. Aidit was not the Party. He was a skilled politician only. Once he was shot, his followers took to a purer Maoist line.

General Nasution was one of the more strict anti-Communist generals. His six year old daughter was killed by a PKI bomb in August. At her funeral, the generals swore their revenge. This incident steeled the will of the Army (Mortimer, 1974). The country, especially Java, was deeply divided as inflation reached 1000%. Violence, in one direction or another, was inevitable. Mortimer states,

It is generally agreed that, particularly in East Java and Bali where, in proportion to the population, the death toll appears to have been heaviest, communal tensions exacerbated by the land reform conflicts of 1964-65 and other political feuds go far to explain the scale of the slaughter. Until studies of the episode are made at the village and small town levels, however, the nature of what was involved will not be fully understood (Mortimer, 1974).

Mortimer, highly sympathetic to the PKI, is the authority of this movement under Sukarno. He states that they sought a peaceful road to power. This is easy when you have a patron like Sukarno. He says that he cannot see how they could “challenge the Army on their own ground,” though he’s admitted that the PKI had infiltrated the Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force.

Document 30 states that the Army “is delivering PKI members to the Muslims for execution.” It doesn’t say if these men were tried or if they would be tried by Islamic courts. The Army, again, pleaded with the population to “stop the excesses,” but the numbers mentioned are low. Document 20 states that the “atrocity stories seem mostly designed to make continuing atrocities against rival political factions in Indonesia following the abortive September 30 coup seem less reprehensible. . . Army leaders seem inclined to work towards the eventual dismantlement of confrontation.”

So what do these documents actually say overall?

  1. That the US was neutral on the Army’s actions. They had no idea if Suharto would be pro-American
  2. There were no mass killings of any kind
  3. The killings mentioned mostly, though not always, were part of a low level civil war
  4. The US was convinced that Mao was a major part of this war, and offers convincing documentation of this. Nothing could have been of greater interest to him than this huge country being a part of his empire
  5. The population was doing the killing, while the Army was pleading for peace
  6. That the Army had no interest in a massive civil war, though the Chinese did
  7. The Army was delivering PKI members to Muslims to be killed. The numbers cited are 10-15, not “thousands
  8. The US heard of “atrocity stories,” but no evidence surfaced about them
  9. That Sukarno was “divorced” from the realities of social life. Given his failures, he had retreated into his little fantasy world while the economy collapsed around him (Document 27)
  10. There are no “kill lists” of any kind. This a fantasy. It is a bald-face lie.

So what was the PKI’s role in the September 30 coup? It was substantial. This is what the hack historians such as John Roosa of the University of British Columbia are trying to deny. He seriously states that the three million members of the Party didn’t seek a “worker’s revolution.” Joseph Daves is a career US Army veteran well versed in Indonesian affairs. He published a three volume analysis of the Indonesian Army that is largely ignored due to its refusal to bow to leftist orthodoxy. He writes:

Few Indonesian national leaders denied PKI involvement, even surviving Party officials. Observers have noted factionalism within the PKI Politburo. Pro-Moscow Politburo member Sudisman was still at large in September 1966 when he published a written commentary maintaining the PKI leadership had grown “soft and compromising under Sukarno” and criticizing Party “adventurism” for involving itself with the September 30th Movement, effectively admitting PKI complicity. Separate Chinese and Soviet Communist Party postmortems criticized the PKI for its participation in the “adventurist” conspiracy. Chinese leaders, including both Mao Zedong and Chou En-lai, publicly chastised the PKI for “assuming a position subordinate to the national bourgeoisie” and for launching an “urban putsch” rather than a grassroots proletariat revolution (Daves. 2004).

Benedict Anderson, a leftist academic who came to prominence for his awful Imagined Communities, a work attempting to debunk nationalism, has put forth the theory that the Communists played no part in the coup that provoked Suharto. Rather, it was a group of patriotic generals that thought those like Suharto was going to make Indonesia subservient to the USA. He gives no reason why these men, all veterans of the war against the Dutch, wanted to negate all their work and suffering. The theory is ludicrous. It also just so happens to be precisely the view of the PKI itself.

These authors don’t bother to note that the country was coming apart at the seams and the currency was worthless. Time was short. Furthermore, the PKI backed the coup because it was an attack on the army, their primary enemy.

Their arguments are prima facie absurd. The PKI was a huge organization with ties deep into the military apparatus. Promises of Chinese aid made revolution even more of an appealing option. Sukarno had little time left. The Chinese were promoting a coup to bring Peking closer to Jakarta. Yet, readers are told the PKI did nothing?

A fair and balanced approach to the issue is presented by Michael Vatikiotis:

To say that Suharto was a dictator is again simplistic. Suharto always defined himself as the servant of a state which endorsed him with a mandate six times since 1968. He has argued that the 11 March 1966 order transferring power to him from Sukarno was not a coup d’etat. Instead, after convening a special session of the the Consultative Assembly in 1966, Suharto spent almost two years working conspicuously through constitutional means to have himself appointed president. Apart from the fragile and tentative nature of his power in the months after October 1965, Suharto and those promoting him were also conscious of setting a dangerous precedent for the future by removing Sukarno by force (Vatikiotis, 1993).

Everyone agrees that he was not a dictator immediately after the coup, so even if these stories are true, they wouldn’t be his direct responsibility. He continues,

Oddly, there is little material evidence in the form of film or photographs of these atrocities. Some may have been exaggerated accounts given by zealous anti-Communists. Indeed, it says something about the intrinsic relationship between rulers and the ruled in Indonesia, that residual feelings about this period have not colored popular perceptions of Suharto’s rule (ibid).

This must be a typo. He’s clearly referring to the “atrocities” of Suharto in this context. He must have meant “zealous Communists,” otherwise the sentence makes no sense. Regardless, his point is that no one thought to snap a picture as these hundreds of thousands were slaughtered.

It should be noted that the founders of the PKI were not Indonesian. Henk Sneevliet was the Dutch founder of the movement. Of the first 101 leading members in 1920, all but three were foreign. The Party was a foreign unit entirely. Sneevliet came from an upper class background and was also involved in forming the Communist Party of China. Strangely enough, a member of his circle was Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (Poretsky, 1969). As always, the PKI was founded by one of the elites of European society.

As early as 1917, the PKI was heavily armed and organized. Roosa denies this without evidence. He also doesn’t mention that the PKI proclaimed a “Peoples Republic of Indonesia” as early as September of 1948. They must have given their guns back to the police once it failed. After 1950, the PKI cloaked itself in nationalist rhetoric to build support. Internationalism is a failure at the polls.

The elections of 1955, with government support, saw the PKI gaining about 10 percent of the vote. The unions were under PKI control. Yet by 1965 they had over three million members. Roosa denies the PKI were armed, but he notes that the PKI units were fighting the British in Malaysia just a few short years before. He doesn’t say with what.

In late 1964, the Murba Party, an offshoot of the Communists who quickly became their rival, warned the government that the PKI were planning a coup soon. True to form, the PKI demanded the Murba Party be banned, which was done (Mortimer, 1974). Given the size of the PKI at the time and the encouragement from China, this is a very reasonable suspicion.

The PKI called for an “arming of the people” which had the support of Sukarno as a result. “People” always means Party comrades, not random citizens. His authority is Seymour Topping, a non-specialist at the New York Times, who said “There is no substantial evidence that the Communists had large supplies of weapons or were planning a mass nationwide uprising to seize total power in the near future.” This statement is shocking. What were the three million members for? Were they Communists or not?

The whole purpose of the Communist Party is to be armed and to take power by force. With Indonesia increasingly dependent on the USSR and the PKI being deep into the Indonesian government, they were very well armed and posed a threat to the Army itself. That Roosa uses surviving members of the PKI as informants tells quite a bit about his deeply flawed research method. A. Vickers, among many others, strongly argues that Suharto was genuinely popular. The Communists, in their pure form, were not.

MJ Ricklefs, in his A History of Modern Indonesia makes far more sense in this regard. Why slaughter people who posed no threat? The PKI, a foreign organization at its core, was importing arms from China for the sake of a revolution. This is what a Communist Party does, especially one of three million. The Army didn’t kill for fun, they fought armed PKI militias.

In 1965, the PKI announced the creation of a highly armed militia as a “Fifth Armed Force” under Sukarno’s indirect leadership. Earlier, in 1958, the PKI fully supported the suppression of the pro-American Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia. Under Suharto, they just got a taste of their own medicine. The Socialist Party of Indonesia was also banned at the insistence of the PKI.

One of the most significant outcomes of the violence from 1958 onward was the creation of Sukarno as a Soviet client. After the US denied his request for arms to fight a pro-American movement, Sukarno went to the USSR and China. This is why the Army became so powerful so quickly. This also shows the Communist influence in the military. The Army was purged of rightists by Sukarno immediately afterwards, something Roosa and the rest refuse to mention (Conboy and Morrison, 1999).

Proving the deep inroads the PKI had made into the Indonesian state, in 1960 Sukarno created the movement “Nasakom,” or Nasionalisme (Nationalism), Agama (Religion) and Komunisme (Communism). The incoherence is deliberate, as he was trying to be all things to all men. The PKI was a partner within the state itself (Crouch, 1978). This made it able to grow rapidly and of course, arm itself to the teeth.

In other words, if the PKI were a threat, then what happened in 1965-1966 was a civil war. If they were not a threat, then why spend so much effort destroying them, especially in an Islamic country? The Army took the actions it did because it saw the PKI as a large, influential, armed group with deep foreign ties. They were right.

In 1948, the FDR, or the Indonesian initials for the People’s Democratic Front, engaged in armed conflict with the fledgling Indonesian state. The FDR was a Communist inspired – but not wholly Marxist – militant group that was well armed. Their main base of strength was the Army. During the National Revolution, different rebel forces had arms caches throughout the country. This remained for the PKI to use later (Mortimer, 1974).

So in July of 1965 when about 2000 PKI members were training at Halim Air Force base, there was certainly precedent for it. This base was also the main military hub of the PKI. The Air Force and Navy were in league with the Communists. For someone like Suharto, it was either the Great Leap Forward, or strong, concerted action against the left. Unfortunately, the left included his own armed forces. Over time, the FDR was merged with the PKI, giving the final proof that the PKI was a heavily armed movement dedicated to violent revolution under foreign direction.

Sukarno had the PKI lecturing to Army officers throughout 1964. Marxism was becoming the official ideology of the state. It wouldn’t be long before the PKI no longer needed the crutch of Sukarno and could rule on their own. It is very possible the September 30 coup was just that. Mortimer writes:

One sign of the changed atmosphere in 1963 was that an invitation was extended to Aidit to take part in an indoctrination scheme for armed forces personnel sponsored by Sukarno, in order to explain to them the outlook and policies of the Marxist strain in the national revolution. In his lectures Aidit mainly concentrated on expounding PKI policies, in order to remove misapprehensions among his listeners and indicate to them the congruence between PKI doctrine and that of the state ideology. On several occasions, however, he also dealt specifically with the role of the armed forces in the revolution.

Strangely, neither Roosa nor the “People’s Tribunal” mention this critical fact. It is clear that the PKI was winning over younger officers, though largely from the generosity of the Soviet bloc. The military turned to the USSR and China because they were giving substantial support to it. The Fifth Congress of the PKI was to surrender “doctrinal rigidity” for the sake of gaining members. Most of their supporters backed them on nationalist grounds, not because they were reading Capital .

Therefore, the PKI had both Chinese and Soviet support, weapons and money. They had the support of the Air Force and Marines, to a great extent. They had penetrated into both the Army and state structure. They controlled the labor movement. They were armed and many were combat experienced. They had three million members in 1965 and had called for massive purges of the state structure consistently since independence.

Suharto did nothing wrong: he fought a civil war in 1966 and “slaughtered” nobody. The left is just angry a huge country didn’t become Marxist. Throwing their typical temper tantrum, Suharto became a “genocidal maniac.” It was either the “Great Leap Forward” of an Army coup. That the press, the American CIA and the academy all prefer the former shows just how much they care about “genocide.” That Suharto prevented the mass famine the Communists perpetrated in China should make him a hero, not the plastic villain the regime has created.

The Regime’s authors refuse to talk about the Indonesian economy. Under Sukarno, it was an utter disaster. In 1973, the GDP per capita was $1500. In 1990 it was over $2500. This is using the value of the 1990 dollar so it takes inflation into account.

After 1966, the second president, general Suharto, restored the inflow of western capital, brought back political stability with a strong role for the Army, and led Indonesia into a period of economic expansion under his authoritarian New Order (Orde Baru) regime which lasted until 1997. In this period industrial output quickly increased, including steel, aluminum, and cement but also products such as food, textiles and cigarettes. From the 1970s onward the increased oil price on the world market provided Indonesia with a massive income from oil and gas exports. Wood exports shifted from logs to plywood, pulp, and paper, at the price of large stretches of environmentally valuable rainforest. Suharto managed to apply part of these revenues to the development of technologically advanced manufacturing industry. Referring to this period of stable economic growth, the World Bank Report of 1993 speaks of an ‘East Asian Miracle’ emphasizing the macroeconomic stability and the investments in human capital (Touwen, 2008).

This seems slightly better than the Chinese Communist “Cultural Revolution.” Touwen goes on to say that the period from 1972-1982 was one of unparalleled growth and prosperity. It was only when Suharto gave up power and the system was deregulated did mass corruption become a fact of life. On the other hand, he says concerning Sukarno,

The “Old Order” period, 1945-1965, was characterized by economic (and political) chaos although some economic growth undeniably did take place during these years. However, macroeconomic instability, lack of foreign investment and structural rigidity formed economic problems that were closely connected with the political power struggle. Sukarno, the first president of the Indonesian republic, had an outspoken dislike of colonialism. His efforts to eliminate foreign economic control were not always supportive of the struggling economy of the new sovereign state. The “Old Order” has for long been a “lost era” in Indonesian economic history, but the establishment of the unitary state and the settlement of major political issues, including some degree of territorial consolidation (as well as the consolidation of the role of the Army) were essential for the development of a national economy.

Indonesia is a country of 18,000 islands. Unification is essential. Political uncertainty and the influence of the Soviet bloc continued to complicate economic decisions. Nationalism certainly supports breaking ties of dependency, but certainly not at the price of having a functional economy. Once the economy is stable, a nationalism leader can slowly break ties, as Suharto did later, but only because he had an army and bureaucracy loyal to him. The army would be the only institution strong enough to reach over the heads of economic elites. Thus, its size and composition was a major concern for elites.

By the mid-1960s, politics and the economy of Indonesia had turned into disaster. After Independence in 1945 (and the cessation of hostilities with the Dutch in 1949), the young nation was plagued by hostile internal politics in which several political forces – consisting of the Army, nationalists, Muslims, and Communists – opposed each other. For over a decade, Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president, had reasonable success in keeping these forces in check by the force of his own personality. However, by the mid-1960s his failure became evident (II, 2015).

These are usually the reasons why militaries take over third world countries. Per capita income fell sharply between 1963 and 1965. Inflation in 1965 was almost 600%. A military coup and a radical unification of the state was the only way out for the struggling nation.

Bizarrely, none of the mainstream histories of Indonesia bother to mention this as they condemn Suharto. The potential of that huge country was and is immense. Had it fallen to Peking or Moscow, not only would millions have died, the economy would have become even worse than it was

Suharto’s main priority was to stabilize the dying economy and unify the nation. These are really one and the same project. Having few options, he needed to rejoin the IMF. He liberalized FDI laws as a temporary recovery measure, but it led to economic growth of ten percent for the next few years (ibid, 2015).

This enabled the public sector to play a greater role in the economy by undertaking substantial public investments in regional development, social development, infrastructure and through the establishment of large-scale (basic) industries, among which were the import-substitution industries. Capital goods and raw materials could be imported due to increased foreign exchange earnings, giving rise to a developing manufacturing sector (II, 2015a).

From 1967 to 1982, economic growth per year never fell under five percent. In the 1970s, Suharto’s priority was to focus state money on domestic development rather than the dependency FDI creates. He wisely engaged in strictly protectionist policies so the new Indonesian firms can develop. Thus, Suharto created the infrastructure for an independent, modern economy leading to great strides in health care and education. These are certainly the policies that any genocidal maniac would undertake.

Manufactured exports began to become the engine of the Indonesian economy. Between 1988 and 1991 Indonesia’s Gross Domestic Product grew by an average of nine percent per year, slowing down to an average of ‘just’ 7.3 percent during the period of 1991 to 1994 and rising again in the following two years (II, 2015a).

That a third world nation that only a few years before had an inflation rate of 600% could then begin exporting manufactured products is extraordinary. The identical policies were undertaken by Generals Park Chung-hee in South Korea and Chaing Kai-shek in Taiwan. It is no accident that these were military dictators and populists. This was necessary because the state needed to be more powerful than economic elites. The military was the only institution that had a chance against them.

Michael Vatikiotis states:

As foreign investment and lucrative oil revenues flowed in, much neglected services and infrastructure were installed. Widespread poverty, estimated to have afflicted 60 per cent of the population in 1967, began to recede. Per capita income began to rise above the $260 it was in 1970 and by 1980 was over $500. The infrastructure of basic health and education facilities began to fan out from the center, laying the basis for one of the highest primary school enrollment rates in the developing world (93 per cent in 1987). Perhaps the most crucial of these improvements was the beginning of an intensive food-production program, one that set Indonesia on a course to basic food self-sufficiency by the early 1980s. Indonesia under Suharto has been held up as something of a model of Third World development. A net show of growth, comparatively little social unrest, and the absence of tanks in the streets is enough to qualify for laurels in many regions of the world. In Indonesia’s case, state-managed economic development since the 1970s has, against considerable odds, steadily improved the welfare of the majority of Indonesian people (Vatikiotis, 1993).

Per capita income increased 15 percent in the first few years of his rule. He used protectionism to ensure Indonesia would not become a dependent economy. After the oil shock wore off, Suharto ordered a diversification of the economy. As a result, from 1977 to 1987, non-oil products as a percentage of exports went from 31 to 50. GDP per capita grew 545% from 1970 to 1980.

Gen. Suharto was a great man. His record speaks for itself. The accusations of “mass genocide” are leveled against every anti-Communist ruler that ever reigned both in Asia and Latin America. It is based on anecdotal evidence, ideological bias and anger. The western liberals show their true colors when they condemn any effort to keep nations from falling to Maoist destruction. Suharto kept all of southeast Asia from falling to the violence of the “Cultural Revolution,” including the Philippines and Malaysia.

The Communist Party was huge, armed and violent, as all Communist Parties are. It’s a part of their entire modus vivendi. The PKI was on the verge of starting a civil war that would have been bloodier than anything Suharto was accused of. Marxism is inherently violent. It is a revolutionary doctrine. To claim they were merely a “peaceful party” is laughable. Suharto knew the millions that were killed under Mao and millions more under Stalin. He knew the track record of Kim il-Sung in North Korea. In stopping the PKI, Suharto saved millions of lives and created a prosperous country.

Under Sukarno, Communists were part of the ruling order. Suharto was barely able to stop this from exploding into all-out war. Because of his rapid action, the civil war was smashed very early. He quickly disarmed and overran Communist positions and purged the Air Force and Navy. Importantly, he purged the civil service, bringing in technocrats and financial experts from all over the globe. These men would serve under him. Technocrats are the alternative to interest groups in “civil society.” In democratic systems, this invariable means concentrated capitalist interests.

The USA never “supported” right wing militaries. They fought them. It’s true the US backed Pinochet against a man who would take over the country with 34% of the vote, but sanctions were placed on Chile in 1976. The US murdered Park in Korea and abandoned Thieu in Vietnam as well as Chaing in Taiwan. The US murdered Diem in Vietnam, ensuring an unstable country. Hugo Banzer of Bolivia was cut off from US aid in 1978. All aid was stripped from Ecuador under Velasco. The CIA killed Rafael Trujillo in Dominica. Jimmy Carter rejected Somoza, sanctions were placed on Franco and Noriega was overthrown. The US condemned the Burmese military junta. In 1978, all aid was cut to Argentina.

With all this, the myth that the US “supported authoritarian regimes” during the “Cold War” needs to end. It never happened. The US worked hand in glove with the USSR, eliminating National-Populist and National Socialist leaders worldwide, permitting the left to take over the streets. The US backed the USSR over both militarist Japan and Germany and “made the world safe for Stalin.” At no point was the US “anti-communist” or “anti-Soviet.”

Gen. Suharto was no different. He was condemned from day one. To the Marxists, Sukarno was merely a “bourgeois nationalist” that needed to be cooperated with until their armed strength reached a point where civil war could be waged victoriously. Sukarno was merely a tool, the Indonesia Alexander Kerensky.

There needs to be more detailed research into the policies of the anti-Communist militaries in Asia and Latin America. As of now, slogans and moralistic condemnations from the far left are all that exists. This paper seeks to be a modest corrective to this dishonesty. Johnson’s Law is unbreakable.

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Important people in Bali: Suharto

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 joint 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.

Power struggle
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.

Political purges
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.


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