|Biographical detail : ||An autocrat Indonesian leader who fostered stability.
When president Sukarno lost public confidence in 1966, Suharto took control and was made acting president in 1967. First elected in 1968, re-elected in 1971, 1977 and 1983. He was chosen president for the seventh time in 1998.
Reversing Sukarno's policy, he developed close economic ties with the West and Japan and was known as “father of development”. Also called “Smiling General”, and referred to by his supporters as “babak” or “father” (of the nation) or simply the “Old Man”. He focused his energies on making Indonesia prosperous. The results were impressive.
An able team of largely American-educated economists and technocrats (swiftly dubbed the “Berkeley Mafia”, since a number had attended Berkeley University in California) was put in charge of the economy, under instructions to create a “new order”. Gradually they brought the rampant inflation under control and began a largely successful long-term programme to lift Indonesia out of grinding poverty, to make it self-sufficient in rice, to establish an industrial base, to impose birth control and to eradicate poverty.
The five-principled state philosophy of “Pantjasila” was revived, demanding belief in humanitarianism, national unity, social justice, democracy and belief in god – be in Allah, Buddha, Christ or any other deity. A very real sense of national identity was achieved in the sprawling archipelago of over 13,000 islands and 190 million people of differing ethnic origins.
His rule helped bring stability to south-east Asia and he played a key role in the founding in 1967 of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), the grouping that now dominates the region’s politics.
However, later on, the unchecked corruption tolerated and encouraged by Suharto deeply affronted the Indonesians, undermined the competitiveness of the economy and weakened the effectiveness of the bureaucracy by eroding the legitimacy of the government.
The economic crisis in 1998 triggered by the collapsed of the under-regulated banking sector that left Suharto at last vulnerable to challenge. Economic growth, upon which he came to rely increasingly for his legitimacy as president, evaporated almost overnight.
Suharto found himself almost as alone on the international front as he was at home. He had no choice but to step down on public pressure – widespread protests and riots – in 1998.
Transparency International, the corruption watchdog, in 2004 dubbed Suharto the world’s foremost kleptocrat and estimated that he and his family had amassed a fortune of up to $35bn between his ascent to power in 1966 and the end of his rule.
Suharto was placed under house arrest and charged with corruption in 2000. Trial collapsed after doctors ruled that he was too ill to stand trial.
Born into poverty of peasant stock in the village of Kemusu Angamulja, in central Java, Suharto had a troubled early family life. He joined the army when Indonesia gained independence in 1949, becoming a staff officer. Suharto took control of the army in 1965 after six top generals were murdered in an attempted coup.
Suharto was buried near the city of Solo in central Java. A seven-day of national mourning was declared in Indonesia in his honour. Though corrupt and authoritarian he may have been during his 32 years in power, but he oversaw political stability and economic growth that pulled millions of Indonesians out of poverty.