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Indonesia politicians visit ailing Suharto JAKARTA - During ex-Indonesian dictator Suharto's weeklong hospital stay, the country's political elite stumbled over one another to visit the ailing strongman. Emerging from the elite Pertamina Hospital, they described him as a great leader and "father of the country.'' Neither current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono nor anybody else mentioned Suharto's dismal human rights record or his history of corruption on a staggering scale, sending the strongest signal yet that the dictator's long-dormant graft case for allegedly stealing $600 million would not be reopened.

Suharto on a file photo from July 2004.
"What the government is trying to do is distance themselves from the complicated past,'' said Marzuki Darusman, who was attorney general when the Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that Suharto was unfit to stand trial because of his health. "There is a sense that they would be putting themselves on trial if they put Suharto on trial.'' A spokesman for Yudhoyono insisted the president's visit had nothing to do with Suharto's legal case. But Vice President Jusuf Kalla, when asked by reporters, said "there was no legal case'' against Suharto.

"This is not the place to discuss this,'' said Kalla, hours before Suharto was released from the hospital Wednesday after recovering from internal bleeding. ``We respect him as a father of the nation.'' Suharto, whose downfall in 1998 led to the advent of democracy in Indonesia, has suffered several strokes in recent years that allegedly affected his memory and kept him out of the courts.

His recent health woes have prompted a wave of nostalgia for his New Order regime, with some Indonesians preferring to focus on the plentiful jobs and security that were hallmarks of Suharto's rule rather than the lack of freedoms and killing of political opponents. "We cannot close our eyes and our hearts to what Suharto has done for us,'' said Agustinus Sutopo, a bank employee. "During Suharto's administration, the economy was good and it was peaceful. There were no bombings, no riots and the separatists couldn't do anything against his administration.''

The outpouring of support from the political establishment has more to do with the shadow Suharto still casts over many top figures in the current government, analysts said. Yudhoyono was a general in Suharto's army and his wife is the daughter of the late Gen. Sarwo Edhi, who commanded Indonesian troops who killed upwards of a million leftists and trade unionists soon after Suharto took power in a 1965 coup.

The largest political party in parliament now is Golkar, which was Suharto's political machine during his dictatorship. Kalla, the vice president, is Golkar's party chairman. "He has enjoyed complete immunity from prosecution because he is protected by a gang of grateful cronies who never lost control of the country even though Suharto himself had to step aside in 1998,'' said Jeffrey Winters, an Indonesia specialist at Northwestern University.


Related blog entries (category 'Human rights') Related blog entries (category 'Human rights'):
11 May 2005 · Suharto returns home
09 May 2005 · Suharto in serious condition, bleeding


Posted in Human rights @ 12 May 2005 18:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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