Mixed reactions to Suharto death

Jan 28, 2008 6:57 AM

World leaders praised the late Indonesian president Suharto for the
stability and growth he brought to the region but said serious
rights abuses marred his long rule.

The former general, 86 when he died on Sunday, ruled with an iron
fist for 32 years, allowing rapid development and holding together
the diverse nation.

But his time in power, which ended in 1998 after mass protests, also
witnessed corruption, massacres and human rights abuses,
particularly in separatist hot spots such as Papua and East Timor.

"Former President Suharto was one of the longest-serving heads of
government of the last century and an influential figure in
Australia's region and beyond," Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
said in a statement.

"The former president was also a controversial figure in respect of
human rights and East Timor and many have disagreed with his
approach," said Rudd, who praised Suharto for modernising Indonesia
and his efforts to forge a united region.

"Singapore would like to convey our deepest sympathies to the
Indonesian people for their profound loss," a spokesman from
Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said via email.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia, another Muslim
nation in the region, said Suharto's death was a great loss to both

"We pray to Allah to bless Pak Harto's soul and to place him among
the blessed," Abdullah told reporters, using the popular name for

Stability, suffering

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, 82, whose time in
office overlapped Suharto's for nearly two decades, told the Bernama
state news agency: "I regarded him as a friend of Malaysia and as a
personal friend.

"Even though Indonesia was not an ideal democracy during Suharto's
time, the fact remained that he brought stability to Indonesia. Of
course, there is a price to be paid," Mahathir said, acknowledging
that some people had suffered under Suharto's administration.

Mahathir said his country was indebted to Suharto for his role in
ending the Indonesian "Confrontation" against Malaysia.

Sukarno, Indonesia's first president, had declared a "Confrontation"
against Malaysia in 1964, which then included Singapore along with
the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Sukarno believed all of Borneo belonged to Indonesia and announced
his intention to arm a million leftist peasants and workers to do
battle with Malaysia.

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said: "Under Suharto's rule,
Indonesia experienced a period of relative stability. The economy
grew strongly, notably in the 1980s. After he stepped down,
Indonesia democratically chose a new leader. That confirms that
Indonesia is a democratic country where the people have the last

The Netherlands is Indonesia's former colonial master.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda offered condolences via a
telegram. Japan invaded and briefly overthrew Dutch rule during
World War Two and is now a key investor in the nation.

Bangladesh described Suharto's death as "the end of an era" but also
noted the inconsistencies in his rule.

"Suharto leaves behind a mixed bag of legacies, while his supporters
see him as the father of development, his opponents describe him as
dictatorial," said Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, adviser on foreign
affairs to Bangladesh's interim government.


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