Damned with praise

From: Kim Eng Yong
Sent: Wednesday, January 30, 2008 2:27:12 PM
Subject: Re:Editorial of the Phil Daily Inquirer on the Death of Suharto

Dear All,

At the opening of the conference of the states parties to the United Nations Convention against corruption in Bali. The Govt. of Indonesia asked all participants to stand up and quiet for one second in order to respect Soharto. It's strange to me that the conference on anti-corruption respected the corrupted person. It seam to encourage the corrupted person. The president of Indonesia, of course, he planed to come to open the conference, he dropped it to attend soharto's funeral and sent his representative to the conference.


Kim Eng

Editorial: Philippine Daily Inquirer, 29 January 2008

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono set the tone when he called on his countrymen "to pay their last respects to one of Indonesia's best sons." The Indonesian government pulled out all the stops to bury former President Suharto, who died Sunday without ever having to face trial. Despite having been deposed by people power in 1997, he lived long enough to die, not as a thoroughly discredited ex-dictator, but more along the lines of an unlucky former statesman.
Hugo Restall, writing in the Wall Street Journal, loftily intoned, "The positive contributions of the man who made Indonesia a respected member of the international community deserve at least equal emphasis." Echoing similar statements made early this year by Singapore's Lee Kwan Yew, Restall wrote: "Consider that when General Suharto came to power after a failed communist coup in 1965, Indonesia was an economic basket case and a troublemaker in the region. The pro-communist populism of President-for- Life Sukarno had led the country down a dead end. Think of Sukarno as the Hugo Chavez of his era."
Lee Kwan Yew made a spirited defense of his departed, dictatorial friend in his letter of condolence. "I have no doubt history will accord … Suharto a place of honor in Indonesia's history when his life's work is studied in calm perspective," he predicted.

The editorial of the newspaper The Australian said that "for Australia, [Suharto was] the most important and beneficial Asian leader in the entire period after World War II." The paper and conservative Australian leaders cited the Indonesian strongman's interest in regional stability, a line echoed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. "Generations of Filipinos and Southeast Asians will remember President Suharto for his key role in regional community building and for his contributions to consolidating the gains of peace-building in Mindanao," Ms Arroyo said.

The Wall Street Journal commentary concludes by comparing Suharto to Deng Xiaopeng, both great men, and responsible for a great deal of development in their nations. And, we might add, a great deal of bloodshed. Deng, in his twilight years, ordered the massacre in Tiananmen Square. As for Suharto, his rise to power was bloody: 78,000 dead from 1965 to 1966, according to government estimates; half a million by Reuters' reckoning; a million, according to the American historians Barbara Harff and Ted Robert Gurr. Over the next decade, according to human rights groups, another 300,000 people were killed, vanished, or starved as Suharto crushed independence movements in East Timor, Aceh and Papua New Guinea.

And in case the so-called greatness of Suharto, in the minds of some observers, shouldn't be tainted by tens of thousands of deaths, there remains the question of a personal fortune in the tens of billions of dollars.

Forbes.com quotes a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in September placing the funds siphoned off by Suharto at $35 billion. His children are immensely wealthy: Bambang Trihatmojo (one-time owner of luxury sports car marquee Maserati) has a reported net worth of $200 million, 33rd on Forbes' 2007 Indonesia's richest list.
In a

Canadian Press report, Jeffrey Winters, associate professor of political economy at Northwestern University, provided a summing-up of the economic costs of Suharto's rule. Suharto robbed "Indonesia of some of the most golden decades, and its best opportunity to move from a poor to a middle-class country," he said.

To be sure, Suharto fostered a statesmanlike attitude toward ASEAN, and together with Lee and Ferdinand Marcos, turned our part of the world into a bulwark against the expansion of communism. For a time, Suharto and Marcos achieved spectacular growth for their countries, but unlike Lee, they failed to step down and groom qualified successors. They also looted their countries, which is something Lee has never been successfully accused of doing. This makes Lee an aberration, and neither Marcos nor Suharto a great man.

This goes to the heart of the grim inheritance Suharto left the Indonesian people: one that again proves true the old adage that if you steal enough, all will be forgiven, as well as the one that says absolute power corrupts absolutely./ //


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