For opponents, Suharto's death does not dull anger
by Nabiha Shahab
JAKARTA, Jan 27, 2008 (AFP) - The death Sunday of Indonesia's autocratic
former president Suharto has not dulled the anger of his political
opponents, who see his demise as a missed opportunity to bring him to
For them, including many who were thrown into prison for dissent, time has
failed to heal the wounds of Suharto's three decades of repressive rule.
"His death is a tragedy for all the victims of his crimes, they will never
get justice," said Budiman Sudjatmiko, who was jailed as a student under the
Suharto regime and now works for the People's Democratic Party of Struggle.
The 86-year-old former president, who stepped down in 1998, was accused of
many crimes -- among them, the mass killing of over half a million suspected
communists in 1965-66.
He and his family also left a legacy of massive corruption, bleeding up to
35 billion dollars out of the Indonesian economy, according to the
anti-graft watchdog Transparency International.
As head of the army's Kostrad elite forces, Suharto led a campaign against
the then-powerful Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) and suspected
sympathisers shortly after a failed 1965 coup attempt blamed on communists.
The ensuing violence across the country is acknowledged --mostly outside
Indonesia -- as one of the worst mass killings of the 20th century.
"This is the mother of all crimes against humanity. Suharto was never held
accountable, he was even praised as a hero," Sudjatmiko said.
"Count in his corruption then he is a perfect criminal -- he can be put up
there with Pol Pot and Hitler."
Sudjatmiko lamented Suharto's passing as a second lost opportunity, saying
he could also have been brought to trial in the reform era that followed his
resignation in 1998.
Carmel Budiardjo, the British-based founder of Tapol, an organisation which
advocates human rights in Indonesia, described Suharto's demise as "the
death of a tyrant."
"The political elite don't see the need for justice," Budiardjo told AFP.
But, she added, "there are people who will feel like I feel, that he died
without facing justice. I only hope the obituaries will highlight what he
did during his reign."
Budiardjo, a British citizen, said she was locked up for three years from
1968 in a women's prison in Bukit Duri, Jakarta, because of her connection
to an academic discussion group.
Under Suharto, intellectuals were frequently jailed after being accused of
links to the PKI.
Fadjroel Rachman, who heads a non-governmental organisation called Suharto
Inc. Busters that worked to bring him to trial for graft, followed up his
own expressions of condolences to Suharto's family with a call that "legal
action against his cronies, families and loyalists should continue."
Rachman, who was jailed for defamation as a student during Suharto's rule,
cited the 1975 invasion of East Timor and military crimes during the bloody
separatist war in Aceh province as abuses for which victims of his regime
are still seeking justice.
Investigative journalist and activist Andreas Harsono vividly remembers as a
teenager watching the president's military police shoot a young boy in the
street in a bid to reduce petty crime.
"He did not hesitate to take the law into his own hands to solve the
problem. The question is: did he solve the problem? Of course not," Harsono
Harsono said as a journalist he experienced first hand the suppression of
the media by Suharto's regime.
"In the future people will praise him, people will call him the 'father of
activities, in killings and suppressing our freedoms,because he has never
been tried," Harsono said.