Obituary : Former president Soeharto passes away
By Andi Abdussalam
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - After 24 days of intensive medical treatment and undergoing several phases of critical conditions, former president Soeharto passed away at the age of 86 at Partamina Hospital in South Jakarta here on Sunday.
Soeharto, Indonesia`s second president, began his presidency in the wake of a bloody communist coup attempt in 1965, and ended it amid a popular reform movement in 1998.
His path in Indonesia`s history was full of turmoil. Before the collapse of the Indonesian economy in 1997, Soeharto was well on his way to turning the country into a newly industrialized nation.
The 1997 economic crisis which swept across the Asian region was a nightmare to Indonesia, not only economically but also politically because it eventually led to termination of Soeharto`s 32-year rule.
Following are his biography and the milestones in his journey.
Soeharto was born on June 8, 1921 in Kamusuk, a small hamlet or an offshoot of the village of Godean in Argomulyo district, 12 kilometers west of Yogyakarta, Central Java.
His father, Kertosudiro, was an "ulu-ulu", or minor village official with responsibility for the upkeep of irrigation works in the village rice field.
Before he was two months old, Soeharto`s mother Sukirah apparently fell ill, abandoned him, unable to suckle her infant.
"As a result, he was given to his paternal great aunt, the local midwife who had helped in his birth, mBah Kromodiryo," Michael Votikiotis wrote in his book: "Indonesia Under Soeharto".
Later, when Soeharto was 8, his father took him away again. The young Soeharto entered school at the age of 8.
After leaving school, Soeharto tried his hand at various jobs, including that of assistant clerk at a village bank.
In June 1940, at the age of 19, he joined the Dutch colonial army (KNIL) and thus began his military career. Within two years, he rose to the rank of sergeant, serving in a battalion quartered in Malang, East Java.
Unfortunately, the Pacific War broke out and the Japanese defeated the Dutch whose armed forces surrendered in March 1942. Dutch and Allied Forces personnel were made prisoners of war.
Sergeant Soeharto and many of his fellows in KNIL were able to escape.
Soeharto returned to his relatives in Central Java where, after several months of unemployment, he was attracted to the Japanese-run militia with its patriotic aim of helping Indonesians achieve their own independence.
Soeharto then joined PETA, the volunteer army of "The Defenders of the Fatherland." a Japanese trained but all-Indonesian military organization established to defend Indonesia against an expected Allied invasion. Here, the young village boy received rigorous military training.
When after the fall of Japan in August 1945, Indonesian nationalists declared independence the young Soeharto felt he was "called" to join the new People`s Army.
Soeharto`s official entry into "Tentara Republik Indonesia" or Army of the Republic of Indonesia is dated October 5, 1945 in Yogyakarta.
At the time, the nascent Indonesian army was little more than a collection of ragtag militia bands relying on weapons captured from the Japanese.
Soeharto`s KNIL background and PETA training soon elevated him to the position of commander.
Under Soekarno`s presidency in 1949, Soeharto, already a lieutenant-colonel, participated in a number of operations to mop up resistance to the new unitary state.
He led an historic military operation at dawn on March 1, 1949 pushing out occupying Dutch troop from Yogyakarta which was also known as the March 1 General Attack.
His troops, known as the "Mataram Brigade," were among those sent to South Sulawesi in April 1950 to put down a revolt. On his return to Central Java a year later, Soeharto was also involved in the suppression of a Muslim uprising.
Experiences like these impressed upon all the officer corps fresh from the struggle against the Dutch.
The period between Soeharto`s expedition to Sulawesi and 1959 was spent in his native Central Java where in 1957 he became the region`s military commander.
The post of divisional commander known as the "Diponegoro Division" lent him a certain amount of prestige.
In 1959, he was transferred from Central Java as regional commander to the Army`s graduate officers` school in Bandung. His career subsequently took him to a staff position in the prestigious Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad)in Jakarta.
Returning from a command in Eastern Indonesia, where he was involved in the successful campaign to wrest West Irian (now Irian Jaya), from the Dutch in 1962, Soeharto, who was newly promoted to major-general, joined General A. H. Nasution`s staff st the Indonesia Armed Forces Headquarters.
In the same year, at the age of 41, he was appointed commander of Kostrad.
With feelings in the army running high over the murder of six generals on the night of September 30, 1965, Soeharto`s decisive moves to restore order the following day earned him kudos.
In the meantime, people`s sentiments against the Communist movement was running high. Action fronts of students, youths, intellectuals, workers, peasants, businessmen and women mushroomed, demanding the dissolution of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).
However, President Soekarno was reluctant to ban the PKI which was part of his NASAKOM (United People`s Front of Nationalists, Religious Groups and Communists) doctrine.
The state of unrest continued to increase and reached its climax on March 11, 1966 when a plenary session of the Cabinet was in progress at the State Palace in Jakarta.
Soldiers of an unidentified unit were approaching the palace. President Soekarno left the room in a hurry and was flown by a helicopter to his palace in Bogor, West Java.
In order to overcome the situation resolutely in the interest of national unity, Soekarno at the Bogor Palace eventually signed a letter giving Soeharto whatever power was needed to protect or safeguard his (Soekarno`s) position.
The "March 11 Order" (Supersmar) as the presidential letter came to be called was used by Soeharto, already a lieutenant general at the time, to consolidate his own position and this was actually the beginning of his New Order government.
The Provisional People`s Consultative Assembly (MPRS) convened a special session to endorse the March 11 Order. On July 1, 1966, Soeharto`s rank was raised to general of the army.
He was appointed Acting President of the Republic of Indonesia by the MPRS on March 12, 1967 and President on March 27 the following year.
Six times in a row he was elected to a five-year presidential term but was forced to step down on May 21, 1998, only two months after his reelection for a sixth term.
A financial crisis hit Asia in 1997. Its domino effect severely affected Indonesia`s economy. It cut the people`s purchasing power by 80 percent. Nation-wide demonstrations began to rock the country, calling for economic and political reforms in 1998.
On May 18, 1998, at least 5000 students occupied the parliament, pressing then House Speaker Harmoko to call for Soeharto`s resignation.
Five days later on May 21, he stepped down, and transferred his power to BJ Habibie, his then vice president.
His successor, Habibie, was under public pressure to take Soeharto to court for his alleged corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN) practices where he was accused of accumulating ill-gotten wealth.
Two years after his ouster, prosecutors filed charges that he had embezzled US$600 million in public funds, but legal proceedings were suspended because of his poor health.
"Time" magazine in its reports in May 1999 accused Soeharto had amassed US$15 billion worth of fortune during his 32 years in power, of which US$9 billion he had transferred from Switzerland to an Austria bank. Habibie assigned Attorney General Andi Ghalib to investigate Soeharto`s wealth.
Ghalib was, however, not able to finish his investigation of Soeharto as he was relieved of his post for an alleged link to a case of `contribution fund` by two conglomerates for national wrestling sport development.
On August 3, 2000, the government formally charged Soeharto with graft. He was tried for the first time by the South Jakarta district Court on August 31. Soeharto was accused of having unlawfully collected Rp1.3 trillion and US$419 million through seven foundations he had led while he was president.
But he, as the defendant, remained absent with only his medical team which was set up by the Attorney General`s Office telling the court the former strongman was too ill to stand trial.
In December 2001, the Supreme Court asked the attorney general office to halt investigation of Soeharto after the former president`s health deteriorated.
In April 2006, Attorney General Abdul Rahman said his office would reopen Soeharto`s case and re-check his health.
But the ex-president was rushed to Pertamina Hospital in South Jakarta a week later for intestinal bleeding where after two days he had to undergo an intestinal surgery and had 40 cm of his colon cut off to stop bleeding.
Due to his ailing physical state and reasons of old age, the Attorney General`s Office dropped all corruption charges against him in May 2006.
Prosecutors are now seeking a total of US$440 million of state funds in a civil lawsuit, and a further 10 trillion rupiah ($1.07 billion) in damages for alleged misuse of funds in one of Soeharto`s foundations. (*)
Copyright © 2008 ANTARAView blog reactions
Earn your degree in as few as 2 years - Advance your career with an AS, BS, MS degree - College-Finder.net.