|“||I was born in Indonesia and will die in Indonesia.||„|
Suharto (8 June 1921 - 27 January 2008) was the second president of Indonesia from 1967 to 1998. For 31 years he ruled over Indonesia with an iron hand and under his rule his family stole roughly $15 billion in cash, shares, corporate assets, real estate, jewelry and fine art.
Like many Javanese, Suharto used only his given name, without a surname. The son of a minor official and trader in Yogyakarta, he aspired from his youth to a career in the military. After graduating from high school and working briefly as a bank clerk, he joined the Dutch colonial army and then, after Imperial Japan's conquest in 1942, switched to a Japanese-sponsored home defense corps, receiving training as an officer. With Japan’s surrender in 1945, he fought in the guerrilla forces seeking independence from the Dutch. By the time Indonesia became a republic in 1950, Suharto had distinguished himself as a battalion commander in central Java and achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. Over the next 15 years he rose steadily through the ranks of the Indonesian army, becoming a colonel in 1957, a brigadier general in 1960, and a major general in 1962.
In 1963 Suharto was routinely appointed to head the army strategic command, a Jakarta-based force used to respond to national emergencies. Indonesia’s leader, President Sukarno, had meanwhile cultivated close ties with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and with China, but the army had remained strongly anticommunist. On September 30, 1965, a group of disgruntled left-wing army officers and some PKI leaders tried to seize power in Jakarta, killing six of the army’s seven senior generals. Suharto was one of the highest-ranking officers to escape assassination, and, as head of the strategic command, he led the army in crushing the coup within a few days. Sukarno was suspected of complicity in the coup, and power now began to shift to the army. In the following months, Suharto directed a purge of communists and leftists in public life, and his example was followed in exaggerated form by vigilantes in a grand massacre of communists throughout the country in which hundreds of thousands lost their lives.
Suharto, by now army chief of staff, took effective control of the Indonesian government on March 12, 1966, though Sukarno remained nominal president for another year. Suharto banned the PKI and began formulating new policies to stabilize the country’s economy and political life, which had approached the brink of chaos in the last years of Sukarno’s rule. In March 1967 the People’s Consultative Assembly (the national legislature) appointed Suharto acting president, and in March 1968 it elected him to a five-year term as president.
Having been appointed president, Suharto still needed to share power with various elements including Indonesian generals who considered Suharto as mere primus inter pares, and Islamic and student groups who participated in the anti-Communist purge. Suharto, aided by his "Office of Personal Assistants" (Aspri) clique of military officers from his days as commander of Diponegoro Division, particularly Ali Murtopo, began to systematically cement his hold on power by subtly sidelining potential rivals while rewarding loyalists with political position and monetary incentives.
The legacy of Suharto's 31-year rule is debated both in Indonesia and abroad. Under his "New Order" administration, Suharto constructed a strong, centralized and military-dominated government. An ability to maintain stability over a sprawling and diverse Indonesia and an avowedly anti-Communist stance won him the economic and diplomatic support of the West during the Cold War.
Suharto promoted the New Order, as opposed to Sukarno's "Old Order", as a society based on the Pancasila ideology. After initially being careful not to offend sensitivities of Islamic scholars who feared Pancasila might develop into a quasi-religious cult, Suharto secured a parliamentary resolution in 1983 which obliged all organisations in Indonesia to adhere to Pancasila as a fundamental principle. He also instituted mandatory Pancasila training programs for all Indonesians, from primary school students to office workers. In practice, however, the vagueness of Pancasila was exploited by Suharto's government to justify their actions and to condemn their opponents as "anti-Pancasila".
For most of his presidency, Indonesia experienced significant economic growth and industrialization, dramatically improving health, education and living standards. However, Indonesia's invasion and subsequent two-decade occupation of East Timor during Suharto's presidency resulted in at least 100,000 deaths. A widespread campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing was carried out against the people of East Timor for those two decades. Suharto's government committed numerous human rights violations and war crimes in East Timor, including extrajudicial murder, acts of torture, sexual slavery, and deliberate starvation.
By the 1990s, the New Order's authoritarianism and widespread corruption were a source of discontent. In the years after his presidency, attempts to try him on charges of corruption and genocide failed because of his poor health and because of lack of support within Indonesia. He resigned in 1998, but remained in Indonesia for the rest of his life and was never prosecuted for any of his crimes. He died from congestive heart failure in 2008.
According to Transparency International, Suharto is the most corrupt leader in modern history, having embezzled an alleged $15–35 billion during his rule.