Suharto: Wikis


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In office
12 March 1967 – 21 May 1998
Vice President Hamengkubuwono IX
Adam Malik
Umar Wirahadikusumah
Try Sutrisno
Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie
Preceded by Sukarno
Succeeded by Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie

In office
7 September 1992 – 20 October 1995
Preceded by Dobrica Ćosić
Succeeded by Ernesto Samper Pizano

In office
Preceded by Abdul Harris Nasution
Succeeded by Maraden Panggabean

8th Indonesian Army Chief of Staff
In office
Preceded by Pranoto Reksosamudra
Succeeded by Maraden Panggabean

1st Armed Force and Strategic Reserve (Kostrad) Commander
In office
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Umar Wirahadikusumah

Born 8 June 1921(1921-06-08)
Kemusuk, Dutch East Indies
Died 27 January 2008 (aged 86)
Jakarta, Indonesia
Nationality Indonesian
Political party Golkar
Spouse(s) Siti Hartinah (d. 1996)
Children Siti Hardiyanti Hastuti[1]
Sigit Harjojudanto
Bambang Trihatmodjo
Siti Hediyati Hariyadi
Hutomo Mandala Putra
Siti Hutami Endang Adiningsih
Profession Military
Religion Islam[2]

About this sound Suharto (8 June 1921 – 27 January 2008) was the second President of Indonesia. He held the office from 1967 following Sukarno's removal up to his resignation in 1998.

Suharto was born in a small village near Yogyakarta, during the Dutch colonial controera. His Javanese peasant parents divorced not long after his birth, and for much of his childhood he was passed between foster parents. During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, Suharto served in Japanese-organised Indonesian security forces. During Indonesia's independence struggle, he joined the newly-formed Indonesian army. Following Indonesian independence, Suharto rose to the rank of Major General. An attempted coup on 30 September 1965 was countered by Suharto-led troops, was blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party.[3] The army subsequently led an anti-communist purge, and Suharto wrested power from Indonesia's founding president, Sukarno. He was appointed acting president in 1967 and President the following year. Support for Suharto's presidency eroded following the hardship of 1997–98 Asian financial crisis. He was forced to resign from the presidency in May 1998 and he died in 2008.

The legacy of Suharto's 32-year rule is debated both in Indonesia and abroad. Under his "New Order" administration, Suharto constructed a strong, centralised 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. For most of his presidency, Indonesia experienced significant economic growth and industrialisation,[4] dramatically improving health, education and living standards.[5] Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor during Suharto's presidency, resulted in at least 100,000 deaths.[6] By the 1990s, the New Order's authoritarianism and widespread corruption[7] was a source of discontent.[8] In the years since his presidency, attempts to try him on charges of corruption and genocide failed because of his poor health.

Like many Javanese, Suharto had only one name.[9] In religious contexts, 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" reflects current Indonesian spelling, but people's names were always exempt from this. The English-language press generally uses the spelling 'Suharto', but Suharto and his family, as well as the Indonesian government and media, use 'Soeharto'.[10]


Early life

Suharto was born on 8 June 1921 during the Dutch East Indies era, in a plaited bamboo walled house in the hamlet of Kemusuk, a part of the larger village of Godean. The village is 15 kilometres west of Yogyakarta, the cultural heartland of the Javanese.[5] Born to ethnic Javanese parents of peasant class, he was the only child of his father's second marriage. His father, Kertosudiro had two children from his previous marriage, and was a village irrigation official. His mother Sukirah, a local woman, was distantly related to Sultan Hamengkubuwono V by his first concubine.[11]

Official Portrait Suharto and First Lady Siti Hartinah

Five weeks after Suharto's birth, his mother suffered a breakdown and disappeared temporarily, whereupon he was given to his paternal great-aunt, Kromodiryo.[12] Kertosudiro and Sukirah divorced early in Suharto's life and both later remarried. At the age of three, Suharto was returned to his mother who had remarried a local farmer whom Suharto helped in the rice paddies.[12] In 1929, Suharto's father took him to live with his sister who was married to agricultural supervisor, Prawirowihardjo, in the town of Wurjantoro in a poor and low-yield farming area near Wonogiri. Over the following two years, he was taken back to his mother in Kemusuk by his stepfather and then back again to Wurjantoro by his father.[13]

Prawirowiharjo took to raising Suharto as his own, which provided Suharto a father-figure and a stable home in Wuryantoro, from where he received much of his primary education. Suharto boarded with a dukun ("guru") of Javanese mystical arts and faith healing. The experience deeply affected Suharto who later, as president, surrounded himself in powerful symbolic language.[5] During this time, the Wonogiri area was one of the worst affected in Java from the collapse in the Dutch East Indies' export revenue during the Great Depression. As unemployed workers returned from the towns to their villages, the subsidence economy grew and the landless struggled to buy food.[13]

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 rumours of Suharto being the illegitimate child of a well-off benefactor, which included being the child of a Yogyakarta aristocrat or a well-off Chinese Indonesian merchant.[14] Suharto biographer Robert E. Elson believes that such rumours cannot be entirely ruled out, given that much of the information Suharto has given on his origins has been tinged with political meaning.[14]

Suharto's upbringing contrasts 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.[15]

Military career

World War II and Japanese occupation

After finishing middle school at the age of 18, Suharto took a clerical job at a bank in Wurjantaro but was forced to resign after a bicycle mishap tore his only working clothes.[16] Following a spell of unemployment, he joined the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) in 1940, and studied in a Dutch-run military school in Gombong near Yogyakarta. With the Netherlands under German occupation and the Japanese pressing for access to Indonesian oil supplies, the Dutch had opened up the KNIL to large intakes of previously excluded Javanese.[17] After graduation, Suharto was assigned to Battalion XIII at Rampal. His service there was unextraordinary, but for his contracting malaria requiring hospitalisation while on guard duty, and then gaining promotion to sergeant.[18]

The March 1942 invasion of Imperial Japanese forces was initially welcomed by many Indonesians as a key step towards independence and Suharto was one of thousands of Indonesians who volunteered for Japanese organised security forces.[17] 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[citation needed] ("Criminal matters became a secondary problem," Suharto remarked, "what was most important were matters of a political kind").[19]

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.[20] The Japanese turned ex-NCOs, including Suharto, into officers and gave them further military education, including lessons in the use of the samurai sword. Suharto's biographer, O.G. Roeder, records in The Smiling General (1969) that Suharto was "well known for his tough, but not brutal, methods".

Indonesian National Revolution

Two days after the Japanese surrender in the Pacific, independence leaders Sukarno and Hatta declared Indonesian independence, and they were appointed President and Vice-President of the new Republic. Suharto disbanded his regiment in accordance with orders from the Japanese command and returned to Yogyakarta.[21] As republican groups rose to assert Indonesian independence, Suharto joined a new unit of the newly formed Indonesian army. On the basis of his PETA experience, he was appointed deputy commander, and subsequently a battalion commander when the republican forces were formally organised in October 1945.[21] Suharto was involved in fighting against Allied troops around Magelang and Semarang, and subsequently was appointed head of a brigade as lieutenant-colonel having earned respect as a field commander.[22] In the early years of the War, Suharto organised local armed forces into Battalion X of Regiment I; Suharto was promoted to the rank of Major and became Battalion X's leader.[23]

The arrival of the Allies, under a mandate to return the situation to the status quo ante bellum, quickly led to clashes between Indonesian republicans and Allied forces, namely returning Dutch and assisting British forces. Suharto led his Division X troops towards halting an advance by the Dutch T ("Tiger") Brigade on 17 May 1946. It earned him 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 organise and unify the command structure of the Indonesian Nationalist forces.[24] 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 defence of the west and southwest 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, to make income.[25]

Suharto with his wife and six children in 1967.

In December 1948, the Dutch launched "Operation Crow," which decimated much of the Indonesian fighting forces, and resulted in the capture of Sukarno and Hatta. Suharto, for his part, took severe casualties in a humiliating defeat for Republican forces as the Dutch invaded the area of Yogyakarta.[25] In dawn raids on 1 March 1949, Suharto's forces and local militia re-captured the city, holding it until noon.[26] Suharto's later accounts had him as singular plotter, although other sources say Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX of Yogyakarta, and the Panglima of the Third Division ordered the attack. However, General Nasution said that Suharto took great care in preparing the "General Offensive" (Indonesian Serangan Umum). Civilians sympathetic to the Republican cause within the city had been galvanised by the show of force which proved that the Dutch had failed to win the guerrilla war. Internationally, the United Nations Security Council pressured the Dutch to cease the military offensive and to re-commence negotiations. Suharto reportedly took an active interest in the peace agreements, but as for many Republican military men, they were much to his dissatisfaction.[27]

During the Revolution, Suharto married Siti Hartinah (known as Madam Tien), who was the daughter of a minor noble in the Mangkunegaran royal house of Solo. The arranged marriage was enduring and supportive, lasting until Tien's death in 1996.[5] The couple had six children: Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana (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). Within the Javanese upper class, it was considered acceptable if the wife pursued genteel commerce to supplement the family budget, allowing her husband to keep his dignity in his official role. The commercial dealings of Tien, her children and grandchildren became extensive and ultimately undermine Suharto's presidency.[5]

Post-Independence military career

Lieutenant Colonel Suharto in 1947.

In the years following Indonesian independence, Suharto served in the Indonesian National Army, primarily in 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.[28] During his year in Makassar, Suharto became acquainted 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 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 Ahmad Yani.[29]

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, which extend throughout his presidency, began in Central Java where he was involved in series of "profit generating" enterprises conducted primarily to keep the poorly-funded military unit functioning.[30] Army anti-corruption investigations implicated Suharto in a 1959 smuggling scandal. Suharto was relieved of his position, and transferred to the army's Staff and Command School (Seskoad) in the city of Bandung.[31] While in Bandung, he was promoted to brigadier-general, and in late 1960, promoted to chief of army intelligence.[5] In 1961, he was given an additional command, as head of the army's new Strategic Reserve (later Kostrad), a ready-reaction air-mobile force.[5]

In January 1962 he was promoted to the rank of major general and appointed to lead Operation Mandala, a joint army-navy-air force command. This formed the military side of the campaign to win western New Guinea, from the Dutch who were preparing it for its own independence, separate from Indonesia.[5] In 1965 Soeharto was assigned operational command of Sukarno's Konfrontasi, against the newly formed Malaysia. Fearful that Konfrontasi would leave Java thinly covered by the army, and hand control to the 2-million strong Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), he authorised a Kostrad intelligence officer, Ali Murtopo, to open contacts with the British and Malaysians.[5]

Overthrow of Sukarno (1965)


From the late 1950s, political conflict and economic deterioration worsened. By the mid-1960s, annual inflation ran between 500–1,000%, export revenues were shrinking, infrastructure crumbling, and severe poverty and hunger were widespread. President Sukarno led his country in a military confrontation with Malaysia whilst stepping up revolutionary and anti-western rhetoric.[32] Sukarno's position came to depend on balancing the increasingly hostile forces of the army and Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI). By 1965 at the height of the Cold War, the PKI penetrated all levels of government. With the support of Sukarno, the party gained increasing influence at the expense of the army, thus ensuring the army's enmity.[33] By late 1965, the army was divided between a left-wing faction allied with the PKI, and a right-wing faction that was being courted by the United States.[34]

Abortive coup and anti-communist purge

As Major General, Suharto (at right, foreground) attends funeral for assassinated generals October 5, 1965.

On the night of 30 September/1 October 1965 six senior army generals were kidnapped and executed in Jakarta by a battalion of soldiers from the Presidential Guard.[35] Backed by elements of the armed forces, the insurgents occupied Merdeka Square including the areas in front of the Presidential Palace, the national radio station, and telecommunications centre. At 7:10 a.m. a Lieutenant-Colonel Untung announced on radio that the "30 September Movement" had forestalled a coup by "power-mad generals", and that it was "an internal army affair". Apart from Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Abdul Harris Nasution—who was targeted but escaped assassination and in was in hiding—Suharto was the most senior general not removed by the 30 September group.[36] Suharto had been in hospital that evening with his three-year old son Tommy who had a scalding injury. It was here that he spoke to Colonel Abdul Latief, the only key person in the ensuing events with whom he spoke that evening.[37]

Upon being told of the shootings and disappearances, Suharto went to Kostrad headquarters just before dawn from where he could see soldiers occupying Merdeka Square. He led Kostrad in seizing control of the centre of Jakarta, capturing key strategic sites. Suharto announced over the radio at 9:00 p.m. that six generals had been kidnapped by "counter-revolutionaries". He said he was in control of the army, and that he would crush the 30 September Movement and safeguard Sukarno.[38] Suharto issued an ultimatum to Halim Air Force Base, where the G30S had based themselves and where Sukarno (the reasons for his presence are unclear and were subject of claim and counter-claim), General Omar Dhani and Aidit had gathered. The coup leaders fled Jakarta[39] while G30S-sympathetic battalions in Central Java quickly came under Suharto control.[40]

The poorly organised and coordinated coup thus failed,[41] and by 2 October, Suharto's faction was firmly in control of the army. Sukarno's obedience to Suharto's 1 October ultimatum to leave Halim changed all power relationships.[40] Sukarno's fragile balance of power between the military, political Islam, communists, and nationalists that underlay his "Guided Democracy" was collapsing.[41] Complicated and partisan theories continue to this day over the identity of the attempted coup's organisers and their aims. The army's (and subsequently the "New Order's") official version was that the PKI was solely responsible. Other theories include Suharto being behind the events; that the army and Suharto was merely taking advantage of a poorly executed coup; and that Sukarno was behind the events (see 30 September Movement).

A military propaganda campaign convinced both Indonesian and international audiences that it was a Communist coup, and that the murders were cowardly atrocities against Indonesian heroes.[42] The army led a campaign to purge Indonesian society, government and armed forces of the communist party and leftist organisations.[42] The purge quickly spread from Jakarta to the rest of the country.[43] (see: Indonesian killings of 1965–66) In some areas the army organised civilian and religious groups and local militias, in other areas communal vigilante action preceded the army.[44] The most widely accepted estimates are that at least half a million were killed.[45] As many as 1.5 million were imprisoned at one stage or another.[46] As a result of the purge, one of Sukarno's three pillars of support, the Indonesian Communist Party, was effectively eliminated by the other two, the military and political Islam.

Power struggle

On 2 October, Suharto accepted Sukarno's order to take control of the army on Suharto's condition that he personally have authority to restore order and security. The 1 November formation of Kopkamtib (Komando Operasi Pemulihan Keamanan dan Keteriban, or Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order), formalised this authority.[47] By January 1966 the PKI, President Sukarno's strongest pillar of support, had been effectively eliminated, the army now saw its opportunity to occupy the apex of Indonesian power.[48] Sukarno was still the Supreme Commander by virtue of the constitution, thus Suharto was careful not to be seen to be seizing power in his own coup. For eighteen months following the quashing of the 30 September Movement, there was a complicated process of political manoeuvers against Sukarno, including student agitation, stacking of parliament, media propaganda and military threats.[49]

On 1 February 1966, Sukarno promoted Suharto to the rank of Lieutenant General. The same month, Gen. Nasution had been forced out of his position of Defence Minister,[50] and the power contest had been reduced to Suharto and Sukarno. The Supersemar decree of 11 March 1966 transferred much of Sukarno's power over the parliament and army to Suharto,[49] ostensibly allowing Suharto to do whatever was needed to restore order. On 12 March 1967, Sukarno was stripped of his remaining power by Indonesia's provisional Parliament, and Suharto was named Acting President.[51] Sukarno was placed under house arrest and little more was heard from him, and he died in June 1970.[52] On 27 March 1968, the Provisional Peoples Representative Assembly formally elected Suharto for the first of his five-year terms as President.[53]

The "New Order" (1967–1998)

Institutionalisation of the New Order

Suharto is appointed President of Indonesia at a ceremony, March 1968.

At first, many saw Suharto as a comparatively obscure officer who had been thrust to prominence by the events of late 1965 and assumed he would not remain in power long. His great political skill, however, quickly became apparent.[54] In contrast to the communal and political conflicts, economic collapse and social breakdown of the late-1950s and mid-1960s, Suharto's "New Order" —so-termed to distinguish it from Sukarno's "old order"—was committed to achieving political order, economic development, and the removal of mass participation in the political process. In place of Sukarno's revolutionary rhetoric, Suharto showed a pragmatic use of power, and in contrast to the liberal parliamentary democracy of the 1950s, Suharto headed an authoritarian, military-dominated government.[52] The "New Order" featured a weak civil society, the bureaucratisation and corporatisation of political and societal organisations, and selective but effective repression of opponents.[55]

To maintain domestic 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 defence force and as civilian administrators. The New Order rolled Indonesian political parties into two — nationalists and Christian parties became the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), and Muslim parties into the People's Development Party (PPP).[14] The New Order built an army-sponsored co-operative movement, Golkar, a coalition of society's "functional groups", into an official party of secular development.[5] Golkar, PDI, and PPP were the only parties allowed to contend elections with the latter two prevented from forming an effective opposition. 100 seats in the electoral college for electing the President were set aside for military representatives. Suharto was elected unopposed as president in 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, and 1998.

As part of 1967s 'Basic Policy for the Solution of the Chinese Problem' and other measures, all but one Chinese-language papers were closed, all Chinese religious expressions had to be confined to their homes, Chinese-language schools were phased out, Chinese script in public places was banned, and Chinese were encouraged to take on Indonesian-sounding names.[56] Much of this legislation were revoked following Suharto's fall from power in 1998.[57]


From 1965 to 68, hyper-inflation was brought under control. A number of measures were implemented to re-encourage foreign investment within Indonesia. These included the privatisation of its natural resources to promote investment by industrialised nations, labour laws favourable to multinational corporations, and soliciting funds for development from institutions including the World Bank, Western banks, and friendly governments.[58] Suharto brought a shift in policy from Sukarno and allowed USAID and other relief agencies to resume operations within the country. Suharto opened 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.

Suharto on a visit to West Germany in 1970.

Within a few years, the Indonesian economy was revived from its near collapsed state of the mid-1960s. It recorded strong annual economic growth for the three decades of Suharto's presidency, although much of these gains would be lost in the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis. Indonesia achieved self-sufficiency in rice production by the mid-1980s, a basic education to almost all citizens, and a successful family planning program.[5][59] Subsidies on basics such as food and fuel to maintain grass-roots support were highly costly to government budgets.

Although the Suharto regime claimed to have had success in reducing poverty, four of five Indonesians still lived below or only slightly above the level of $1 a day near the end of his rule. Suharto's former government ministers flatly said the alleged lowering of poverty rates was false. The Suharto regime's definition of poverty was also inflated: it was a monetary sum, a rupiah base sufficient to enable the poor to get the internationally accepted norm of 2,100 calories a day. The cash amount had been less than the globally accepted poverty line of $1 a day. Until the 1998 crisis, it was only about half that in Indonesia's cities, and less in the countryside.[60]

Influence and business opportunity became increasingly concentrated within Suharto's family, relatives, favoured generals and a number of ethnic Chinese businessmen that he had known since his time in Semarang in particular Liem Siu Liong and Bob Hasan. Much of the funds flowed to foundations (yayasan) controlled by the Suharto family.[61] By the late '80s the extent of the first family's business activities concerned even long-time military associates, such as General Benny Murdani. By the pre-financial crisis peak of the mid-1990s, the family's annual revenue was estimated in the billions of US dollars. Much of it was recycled back into pay-offs, patronage, military subsidies, and campaign funding.[5]

Foreign policy, Irian Jaya, East Timor and Aceh

Suharto attends 1970 meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Lusaka.

Upon his assumption of power, Suharto dispatched his foreign minister, Adam Malik to mend strained relations with the United States, the United Nations, and end the Sukarno-instigated Konfrontasi with Malaysia. Previously increasingly close relations with China were cut (diplomatic ties were restored in 1990). Suharto played an important role in the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in the early 1990s.[59] Officially, the "New Order" followed a foreign policy of neutrality.[5]

In 1969, Suharto's government reached an agreement with the United States and United Nations, to hold a referendum on self-determination for western New Guinea. The 1969 "Act of Free Choice" was open to 1022 "chiefs" and the unanimous decision for integration with Indonesia lead to doubts of its validity.[62] In 1975, Indonesia invaded Portuguese Timor and the following year declared East Timor the 27th province of Indonesia, a status never recognised by the United Nations. Following Suharto's 1998 resignation from the Presidency, the Indonesian government ceded control of East Timor in 1999 following a referendum vote for independence. An estimated minimum of 102,800 conflict-related deaths occurred in East Timor during the period 1974–1999, namely, approximately 18,600 killings and 84,200 'excess' deaths from hunger and illness.[63] In 1976, the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, who demanded independence for Aceh from Indonesia. Suharto authorised troops to put down the rebellion, forcing several of its leaders into exile in Sweden.[64] 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" in 1990.

Politics and dissent

Suharto with U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen, 14 January 1998.

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. On 5 May 1980 a group of prominent military men, politicians, academics and students calling themselves the "Petition of Fifty" questioned Suharto's use of the national ideology Pancasila. 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.[citation needed] 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.

Following the end of the Cold War, Western concern over communism waned, and Suharto's human rights record came under greater international scrutiny. The 1991 killing of over 200 East Timorese civilians in Dili, East Timor, resulted in the Congress of the United States passing limitations on IMET assistance to the Indonesian military.[65] Noam Chomsky has referred to the Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor as the worst instance of genocide relative to population since the Holocaust.[66] 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.[67]

Despite concerns over Indonesian human rights, the Clinton administration was seen as supportive of Suharto—Indonesia was seen to serve US interests.[68][69] Suharto deregulated Indonesia's economy and opened Indonesia to foreign investors.[68]

By 1996, Megawati Sukarnoputri, the daughter of Sukarno, and chair of the Indonesian Democratic Party was increasingly critical of Suharto's "New Order". In response, Suharto backed a co-opted faction led by Deputy Speaker of Parliament Suryadi, which removed Megawati from the chair. A government crackdown on demonstrating Megawati supporters result in a number of deaths, rioting and the arrest of two-hundred. Those arrested were tried under the anti-Subversion and hate-spreading laws. It marked the beginning of a renewed crackdown by the New Order government against supporters of democracy, now called the "Reformasi" or Reformation.


Suharto reads his address of resignation at Merdeka Palace on 21 May 1998. Suharto's successor, B. J. Habibie, is to his right.

The Asian Financial Crisis had dire consequences for the Indonesian economy and society, and Suharto's regime. The Indonesian currency collapsed in value, foreign investment dried up, and mass layoffs of urban workers and price rises created tension across the country.[5][70] Suharto was re-elected for another five-year term in March 1998, stacking parliament and cabinet with his own family and business associates in the process. Increasingly, prominent political figures spoke out against Suharto's presidency, and university students organised nation-wide demonstrations.

The shooting of four student demonstrators in Jakarta in May 1998 triggered rioting across the city that destroyed thousands of buildings and killed over 1,000 people. Following public outrage at the events, a student occupation of the parliament building, streets protest across the country, and the desertion of key political allies, on 21 May 1998 Suharto announced his resignation from the presidency. His recently appointed Vice President Habibie assumed the presidency in accordance with the constitution.[5][70][71]


After his resignation, Suharto retired to a family compound in Central Jakarta, making few public appearances. Efforts to prosecute Suharto have mostly centred around alleged mismanagement of funds, and their force has been blunted due to health concerns. Suharto was never prosecuted.

Investigations of wealth

In May 1999, Time Asia estimated Suharto's family fortune at US$15 billion in cash, shares, corporate assets, real estate, jewelry 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% of the land in East Timor. Suharto was placed highest on Transparency International's list of corrupt leaders with an alleged misappropriation of between US $15–35 billion during his 32-year presidency.[8]

On 29 May 2000, Suharto was placed under house arrest when Indonesian authorities began to investigate the corruption during his regime. In July 2000, 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. On 26 March 2008, a civil court judge acquitted Suharto of corruption but ordered his charitable foundation, Supersemar, to pay US$110 m (£55 m).[72]

Related legal cases

In 2002, Suharto's son Hutomo Mandala Putra, more widely known as Tommy, was sentenced to 15 years jail. He had been convicted of ordering the killing of a judge who had sentenced him to 18 months jail for corruption and illegal weapons possession. In 2006, he was freed on "conditional release." following reductions in his sentence.[73]

In 2003, Suharto's half-brother Probosutedjo was tried and convicted for corruption and the loss 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. His full four year term was 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.

On 9 July 2007, Indonesian prosecutors filed a civil lawsuit against former President Suharto, to recover state funds ($440 m or £219 m, which allegedly disappeared from a scholarship fund, and a further $1.1 billion in damages).[74]

On 4 September 2007, mediation at the Attorney General's Office (AGO) between prosecutors and lawyers for Suharto over the Supersemar foundation civil lawsuit succeeded and thus the trial will have to commence.[75]

On 10 September 2007, Indonesia's Supreme Court awarded Suharto damages against Time Asia magazine, ordering it to pay him one trillion rupiah ($128.59 million). The High Court reversed the judgment of an appellate court and Central Jakarta district court (made in 2000 and 2001). Suharto had sued the U.S.-based Time magazine seeking more than $US 27 billion in damages for libel over a 1999 article which reported that he transferred stolen money abroad.[76]

Health crises

After resigning from the presidency, Suharto was hospitalised repeatedly for stroke, heart, and intestinal problems. His declining health negatively affected the many attempts to prosecute Suharto on charges of corruption and human rights violations, as his lawyers successfully claimed that his condition rendered him unfit for trial. In 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."[77] 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."[78]


On 4 January 2008, Suharto was taken to the Pertamina hospital, Jakarta with complications arising from a weak heart, swelling of limbs and stomach, and partial renal failure.[79] His health fluctuated for several weeks but progressively worsened with anaemia and low blood pressure due to heart and kidney complications, internal bleeding, fluid on his lungs, and blood in his feces and urine which caused a haemoglobin drop.[80] On 23 January, Suharto's health worsened further, as a sepsis infection spread through his body.[81] His family consented to the removal of life support machines, and he died on 27 January at 1:10 p.m.[82][83]

Suharto's body was taken from Jakarta to the Giri Bangun mausoleum complex near the Central Java city of Solo. He was buried alongside his late wife in a state military funeral with full honours, with the Kopassus elite forces and Kostrad commandos as the honour guard and pallbearers and Commander of Group II Kopassus Surakarta Lt.Colonel Asep Subarkah.[84] In attendance were the incumbent president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as "Ceremony Inspector", and vice-president, government ministers, and armed forces chiefs of staff. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets to see the convoy.[85] Condolences were offered by many regional heads of state, although certain regional leaders such as Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, boycotted the funeral,[86] whereas Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono declared a week of official mourning.[87]

See also



  1. ^ Berger, Marilyn (2008-01-28). "Suharto Dies at 86; Indonesian Dictator Brought Order and Bloodshed". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  2. ^ Schwarz (1994), p. 175
  3. ^ Friend (2003), pages 107–109; Chris Hilton (writer and director). (2001). Shadowplay. [Television documentary]. Vagabond Films and Hilton Cordell Productions. ; Ricklefs (1991), pages 280–283, 284, 287–290
  4. ^ Miguel, Edward; Paul Gertler, David I. Levine (January 2005). "Does Social Capital Promote Industrialization? Evidence from a Rapid Industrializer". Econometrics Softare Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o McDonald, Hamish (28 January 2008), "No End to Ambition", Sydney Morning Herald, 
  6. ^ Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (February 9, 2006). "The Profile of Human Rights Violations in Timor-Leste, 1974–1999". A Report to the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation of Timor-Leste. Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). 
  7. ^ estimates of government funds misappropriated by the Suharto family range from US$1.5 billion and US$35 billion.(Ignatius, Adi (2007-09-11). "Mulls Indonesia Court Ruling". TIME.,8599,1660967,00.html?iid=sphere-inline-sidebar. Retrieved 2009-08-09. ); Haskin, Colin, "Suharto dead at 86", Globe and Mail, January 27, 2008
  8. ^ a b "Suharto tops corruption rankings". BBC News. March 25, 2004. Retrieved 2006-02-04. 
  9. ^ Haskin, Colin, "Suharto dead at 86", Globe and Mail, January 27, 2008
  10. ^ Romano, Angela Rose (2003). Politics and the press in Indonesia. p. ix. 
  11. ^ Tempo (Jakarta), 11 November 1974.
  12. ^ a b McDonald (1980), p. 10.
  13. ^ a b McDonald (1980), p. 11.
  14. ^ a b c McDonald (1980), page 9
  15. ^ Elson, Robert E. (2001). Suharto: A Political Biography. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–6. 052177326. 
  16. ^ McDonald (1980), pages 12–13
  17. ^ a b McDonald (1980), pages 13
  18. ^ Elson, Robert E. (2001). Suharto: A Political Biography. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 8. 052177326. 
  19. ^ Oudang, R. (1954). Perkembangan kepolisian di Indonesia. Jakarta: Mahabarata. pp. 36. 
  20. ^ Elson, R.E. (2001). Suharto: A Political Biography. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 9. 052177326. 
  21. ^ a b McDonald (1980), p. 14.
  22. ^ McDonald (1980), p. 16.
  23. ^ Elson, R.E. (2001). Suharto: A Political Biography. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 14–15. 052177326. 
  24. ^ Elson, R.E. (2001). Suharto: A Political Biography. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 15–17. 052177326. 
  25. ^ a b Elson, R.E. (2001). Suharto: A Political Biography. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 20–25, 28–29. 052177326. 
  26. ^ Reid 1974
  27. ^ Elson, R.E. (2001). Suharto: A Political Biography. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. pp. 29–38, 42–44. 052177326. 
  28. ^ McDonald, Hamish (1980). Suharto's Indonesia. Fontana Books. pp. 24–25. ISBN 0-00-635721-0. 
  29. ^ McDonald, Hamish (1980). Suharto's Indonesia. Fontana Books. pp. 25. ISBN 0-00-635721-0. 
  30. ^ McDonald, Hamish (1980). Suharto's Indonesia. Fontana Books. pp. 30–31. ISBN 0-00-635721-0. 
  31. ^ McDonald, Hamish (1980). Suharto's Indonesia. Fontana Books. pp. 31–32. ISBN 0-00-635721-0. 
  32. ^ Schwarz (1994), pages 52–57, Sheriden, Greg (28 January 2008). "Farewell to Jakarta's Man of Steel". The Australian.,25197,23118079-5013460,00.html. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  33. ^ Ricklefs (1991), page 282
  34. ^ Ricklefs (1991), pages 272–280
  35. ^ Ricklefs (1991), page 281
  36. ^ Vickers (2005), page 156
  37. ^ Friend (2003), page 104
  38. ^ Ricklefs (1991), p. 282.
  39. ^ Ricklefs (1991), page 281–282
  40. ^ a b Friend (2003), page 105
  41. ^ a b Ricklefs (1991), pages 281–282
  42. ^ a b Vickers (2005), page 157
  43. ^ Ricklefs (1991), page 287
  44. ^ Vickers (2005), pages 158–159
  45. ^ Ricklefs (1991), p. 288; Friend (2003), p. 113; Vickers (2005), p. 159; Robert Cribb (2002). "Unresolved Problems in the Indonesian Killings of 1965–1966". Asian Survey 42 (4): 550–563. doi:10.1525/as.2002.42.4.550. 
  46. ^ Vickers (2005), pages 159–60
  47. ^ Ricklefs (1991), p. 287.
  48. ^ Schwartz (1994), pages 2 & 22
  49. ^ a b Vickers (2005), page 160
  50. ^ "Sukarno Removes His Defence Chief". New York Times. 22 February 1965. 
  51. ^ McDonald (1980), p. 60.
  52. ^ a b Schwartz (1994), page 2
  53. ^ Ricklefs (1991), p. 295.
  54. ^ Aspinal (1999), p.ii
  55. ^ Schwartz (1994), p. 3.; Aspinall (1999), pp. i & ii.
  56. ^ Schwartz (1994), page 106
  57. ^; Inside Indonesia
  58. ^ "Indonesia Economic". Commanding Heights. PBS/WBGH. Retrieved 23 May 2005. 
  59. ^ a b Sheriden, Greg (28 January 2008). "Farewell to Jakarta's Man of Steel". The Australian.,25197,23118079-5013460,00.html. Retrieved 2008-12-30. 
  60. ^ Speak No Evil: Why the World Bank Failed to Anticipate Indonesia's Deep Crisis by Marcus W. Brauchli. Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Jul 14, 1998. pg. A.1
  61. ^ Koerner, Brendan (March 26, 2004). "How Did Suharto Steal $35 Billion? Cronyism 101". Slate. Retrieved 2006-02-04. 
  62. ^ Simpson, Brad (July 9, 2004). "Indonesia's 1969 Takeover of West Papua Not by "Free Choice"". National Security Archive. 
  63. ^ Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (February 9, 2006). "The Profile of Human Rights Violations in Timor-Leste, 1974–1999". A Report to the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation of Timor-Leste. Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). 
  64. ^ Miller, Michelle Ann. (2008). Rebellion and Reform in Indonesia. Jakarta's Security and Autonomy Policies in Aceh, London, Routledge, pp.5-6. ISBN 978-0-415-45467-4
  65. ^ "H.AMDT.647 (A003): An amendment to prohibit any funds appropriated in the bill to be used for military education and training assistance to Indonesia". THOMAS (Library of Congress). Retrieved 2006-02-04. 
  66. ^ "Indonesia at the Crossroads: U.S. Weapons Sales and Military Training". Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  67. ^ "United Nations High Commission on Human Rights resolution 1993/97: Situation in East Timor". United Nations. Retrieved 2006-02-04. 
  68. ^ a b SANGER, DAVID (1995-10- 31). "Real Politics: Why Suharto Is In and Castro Is Out". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  69. ^ "The Great Allan Nairn on Indonesia — Indonesia's anti-terror police". Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  70. ^ a b Vickers (2005), pp. 203–207.
  71. ^ E. Aspinall, H. Feith, and G. Van Klinken (eds) The Last Days of President Suharto, Monash Asia Institute, pp.iv-vii.
  72. ^ "Suharto charity told to pay $110 m". 2008-03-27. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  73. ^ "Asia-Pacific | Tommy Suharto freed from prison". BBC News. 2006-10-30. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  74. ^ "Civil suit filed against Suharto". BBC News. July 9, 2007. 
  75. ^ ", Mediation fails, Soeharto civil trial continues". 
  76. ^ From correspondents in Jakarta (2007-09-10). ", Suharto wins $128 m in damages".,21985,22396808-5005961,00.html. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  77. ^ "Former Indonesian dictator unfit to stand trial — doctor". Associated Press. April 23, 2006. 
  78. ^ Donnan, Shawn (April 28, 2006). "Jakarta makes final attempt to pursue Suharto charges". Financial Times. 
  79. ^ "Indonesia's ailing Suharto 'getting worse': doctors". 2008-01-05. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  80. ^ "Suharto condition 'deteriorating'". BBC News. 2008-01-08. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  81. ^ Jakarta Post, Suharto's health deteriorates, infection spreads, January 24 2008;
  82. ^ "Indonesia ex-leader Suharto dies". BBC News. 2008-01-27. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  83. ^ Al Jazeera English - Asia-Pacific - Suharto has multiple organ failure
  84. ^ "— Presiden Tiba di Astana Giribangun".,20080128-116371,id.html. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  85. ^ Tedjasukmana, Jason (2008-01-29). "Indonesia Bids Farewell to Suharto". TIME.,8599,1707754,00.html. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  86. ^ "''NZ won't sign Suharto condolence book'', January 29, 2008". 2008-01-29.,21985,23127319-5005961,00.html. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  87. ^ "Geoff Thompson, ''Suharto's body arrives home'', ABC News January 27, 2008". 2008-01-27. Retrieved 2009-08-09. 


Further reading

  • McDonald, H., Suharto's Indonesia, Fontana Books, 1980, Blackburn, Australia, ISBN 0006357210
  • McGlynn, John H. et al., Indonesia in the Soeharto years. Issue, incidents and images, Jakarta 2007, KITLV
  • Schwarz, A. 1999, A Nation in Waiting: Indonesia's Search for Stability, Westview Press; 2nd edition (October 1999), ISBN 0-8133-3650-3
  • "Vengeance with a Smile", Time Magazine, Friday, Jul. 15, 1966
  • Retnowati Abdulgani-Knapp; "Soeharto: The Life and Legacy of Indonesia's Second President, An Authorised Biography", Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Editions; ISBN-10: 9812613404, ISBN-13: 978-9812613400

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Pranoto Reksosamudra
Indonesian Army Chief of Staff
Succeeded by
Maraden Panggabean
Position abolished by Sukarno after October 17, 1952 incident
Title last held by
T B Simatupang
As Chief of Staff of the Battle Forces
Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces
Succeeded by
Maraden Panggabean
Political offices
Preceded by
President of Indonesia
12 March 1967 – 21 May 1998
Succeeded by
Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie
Preceded by
Dobrica Ćosić
Secretary General of Non-Aligned Movement
Succeeded by
Ernesto Samper Pizano

Simple English


In office
March 12, 1967 – May 21, 1998
Vice President Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX (1973)
Adam Malik (1978)
Umar Wirahadikusumah (1983)
Sudharmono (1988)
Try Sutrisno (1993)
Baharudin Jusuf Habibie (1998)
Preceded by Sukarno
Succeeded by Baharudin Jusuf Habibie

Born February 20, 1921(1921-02-20)
Kemusuk, Yogyakarta
Died January 27, 2008 (aged 86)
Jakarta, Indonesia
Nationality Indonesian
Political party Golkar
Spouse Tien Soeharto
Profession Military
Religion Islam

Suharto (February 20, 1921 - January 27, 2008[1]) was an Indonesian military and political leader. He was a military officer in the Indonesian National Revolution. He is better known as the second President of Indonesia. He held the office for a long time, from 1967 to 1998.

Suharto seized power from his predecessor, the first president of Indonesia Sukarno. For this, he used some force, but also took some political maneuvers. At the time, there was instability and unrest inside and outside of Indonesia. This helped him come to power. He took three decades to change the regime to work along militarist lines, with a strong central government. His movement was known as "Orde Baru". As he took an anti-communist position which he could defend, several Western governments supported him both in economic and political matters. This was during an era that is known as Cold War. For most of his three-decade rule, Indonesia experienced significant economic growth and industrialization.[2] His rule, however, led to political purges and the deaths of millions of suspected Indonesian communists and Chinese-Indonesians.[3] He also made some laws against communist parties and ethnic Chinese.[4]

His New Order administration's authoritarian and increasingly corrupt practices led to much discontent in the 1990s. Suharto's almost unquestioned authority over Indonesian affairs slipped dramatically when the Asian financial crisis lowered Indonesians' standard of living. People inside the military and other institutions no longer supported him. There were some problems inside the country during the early 1990s. Suharto became more and more isolated, in a political way. After mass demonstrations in 1998, Suharto was forced to resign. Suharto had been the face of Indonesia for over 30 years. After retiring, he lived in seclusion. There were people who wanted to try him for genocide. This failed however, because he had a very bad health. His legacy remains hotly debated and contested both in Indonesia and abroad.

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 passed away at January 27, 2008, at 1:10 P.M. local time due to organ failure. He passed away at Pertamina Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia. [5]


  1. "Indonesia ex-leader Suharto dies". 
  2. Miguel, Edward; Paul Gertler, David I. Levine (January 2005). "Does Social Capital Promote Industrialization? Evidence from a Rapid Industrializer". Econometrics Softare Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley. 
  3. Robert Cribb (2002). "Unresolved Problems in the Indonesian Killings of 1965-1966". Asian Survey 42 (4): 550–563. 
  4. Leo Suryadinata (1976). "Indonesian Policies toward the Chinese Minority under the New Order". Asian Survey 16 (8): 770–787. 

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