Jan 14th, 2008, in News, by

Some people are in a forgiving mood as former president Suharto nears death.

As Suharto nears death, with never-ending media reports of “condition improving”/”condition worsening”, and as his grave is prepared, suarapembaruan the question of the stalled but outstanding legal case against Suharto concerning stolen national assets has been repeatedly raised.

Hidayat Nur Wahid
Hidayat Nur Wahid

Some, such as parliament speaker Hidayat Nurwahid, insist that Suharto continue to be prosecuted, given that Indonesia is a country based on law. tempo

Many others however, such as former “Reformasi” firebrand Amien Rais, recommend that the government and people forgive Suharto entirely, and end investigation and prosecution of him.

Amien Rais
Amien Rais.

Reading out a statement in Yogyakarta on the 14th Amien said that in the early days many people did not criticise Suharto’s leadership or attempt to thwart his ambitions, to the point where he eventually became all-powerful, and therefore many people in the country bore some responsibility for Suharto’s deeds.

No-one dared say no to him.

Amien hoped that in future people would be more critical of their leaders, so that there would never again be a figure such as Soeharto, as well as his predecessor Soekarno. tempo

Meanwhile President SBY, standing in the middle as usual, asked everyone to just stop talking about the issue, at least until Suharto was dead waspada and the epitaphs had been written.

Let us stop all debates and arguments as they are unwise and improper at this time.

Suharto had done much good for the country, SBY said:

Despite some shortcomings, we still need to show him the respect and gratitude he deserves.

This article in bahasa Indonesia – Pengampunan Pak Harto.

106 Comments on “Forgiveness”

  1. Forgive him all right, but do continue with the investigations.

  2. Andrew says:

    Forgiveness is one’s discretion, but the wheel of justice must keep rolling. If the law doesn’t find him guilty, his name will be cleared. Calling off the investigation would set a very bad precedent, not to mention that it would betray those who allegedly became victims.

  3. Brett says:

    Why should Indonesians forgive Suharto? What has he done lately that warrants it? Those who promote the notion that he deserves forgiveness are most likely covering their own arses. I just wish the old bastard would die so all this would be over!

  4. Daniel K says:

    Why should the investigations dis-continue? Forgive him as a moral obligation, but do justice for the many victims and continue the investigation.

    I would guess that there has been much more pain caused to Indonesians from corruption, rather than any other cause.

  5. Janma says:

    He didn’t have the same sympathy for soekarno did he? Why should the families of all the people he ‘disappeared’ let him off the hook? why don’t they deserve justice?

  6. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Biggest question:

    Why are all of you ignoring the justice given to the tens of millions of Indonesians who led longer lives, healthier lives, and had jobs mainly due to Suharto’s economic policies.?

    Third world poverty might be just an abstract concept to middle-class chatterers on the internet, but it ain’t to Indonesians in the village.

    Bottom line is that for most Indonesians it is and was the economy, stupid. We ain’t talking troubles paying a second mortgage here. In 65-66 most Indonesians were living worse than Bangladeshis are now.

    Funny how black and white judgements go out the window once you start looking at murky realities.

  7. Janma says:

    Biggest question:

    Why are all of you ignoring the justice given to the tens of millions of Indonesians who led longer lives, healthier lives, and had jobs mainly due to Suharto’s economic policies.?

    Answer… (small to medium)
    I’m not. It was great. No radicals. No wahabi’s. No ‘unauthorized’ ethnic cleansings. rupiah stable. He knew how to get the job done. He was a quiet genius. But the only way for Indonesia to move forward is to have a law for all. Not that some should be exempt. It just sets a precedent. Let him off, I personally couldn’t care less, he’s almost dead anyway. (my husband says he can’t die so easily cause he’s got too much ilmu, some designated person will have to cross a river with Soeharto’s underpants on their head so he can die.) The problem is that all politicians will think they are exempt from the law too… ( as they still do, and it seems the people are weirdly behind them sometimes…) like this stupid assets test thing they make new ministers etc take when they come into office….. and they are not allowed to do business, meanwhile bakrie starts as a minister almost bankrupt and now he’s the wealthiest man in Indonesia…. excuse me? how did that happen? when will they check the bookwork and say ‘something is wrong here’? or maybe they’ll say…. “tis ok, he has done much for our country…. thanks to him we can make mud bricks for the next thousand years……”
    so if they use this way to get soeharto off….. all I can say is…
    it’s the wrong way!

  8. Achmad Sudarsono says:


    Question is, in a legal sense, what do they have on Soeharto ?

  9. Janma says:

    They have the responsibility to investigate.

  10. Janma says:

    and if they want to let him off…. then why couldn’t they just keep procrastinating until he kicks it? Why do they have to make a big public issue about forgiving him? That is a totally different matter, that’s condoning… as opposed to ignoring. What kind of bullsh*t is that? That’s the way to run the country?

  11. Achmad Sudarsono says:


    Who’s the “they” ? It’s not just serving Ministers who are talking about forgiving Suharto. One of the mothers of the Trisakti student victims said she forgave him, as did Suciwati, the widow of Munir. A.M. Fatwa, who was jailed and a host of others forgave him as well.

    They won’t get the old bastard and yes, I think you’re right, it’s about everyone being equal before the law. I think there’s a general sense amongst Indonesians that Soeharto should have to face the law as well.

    And I think amidst the murky tangle of feelings this goes to the heart of evaluating Soeharto. Why was he such a bastard ? Did he do it to help the country, but made a few mistakes along the way ? He monologued for years about ‘Negara Hukum’, and then let his kids raid the till.

    Even if they get the old bandicoot in the dock, though, it’s hard to prove corruption. Soeharto was so powerful people would’ve signed alot of the documents for him.

  12. T Belfield says:

    Read my current blog “Soeharto” at Jakarta Urbanblog
    then ask yourself about the question of forgiveness.

  13. Janma says:

    ‘They’ are the people rabbiting on about letting him off…. and forgiveness…..

    It would be impossible to convict him if you ask me. His power and hold over the indonesian people is approaching mythical. We see Tommy and how the law dealt with him.
    However, that isn’t the point is it? And I’m not only talking about corruption.
    I’m actually talking about banging my head on the wall called futility…… you wanna join me?

  14. Oigal says:

    “Why are all of you ignoring the justice given to the tens of millions of Indonesians who led longer lives, healthier lives, and had jobs mainly due to Suharto’s economic policies.?”

    Ah Assmad…. the old plantation slave owner’s defence…”Why they are almost part of the family, we feed them, clothe them and look after them of course every so often we have to whip or kill a few but it was for their own good ….really..”

  15. Achmad Sudarsono says:


    Get your head out of your arse and read some history, especially on the mining industry.

    I expect more of you than to descend to ad hominem arguments.

    On Suharto: he delivered three decades of 7 percent economic growth. That meant better lives for a lot of poor people. (Slaveowners don’t give payrises).

    On ’65-66: please, exactly what happened, tell us. And exactly what was Suharto’s role, documents, evidence, dates, times.

    If you’re going to convict someone even in the court of public opinion, surely you have evidence.

    Oigal, me mate, I’m disappointed. You’ve displayed all of the lack of reason of the lefties on this one.

    Indonesia was headed for a sad collision of Bangladesh, Vietnam circa 1975, and Yugoslavia circa 1991 in 1965.

    That’s the problem with engineers. Dumb when it comes to politics.

  16. naga says:

    Why not forgive Suharto and all his children too while were at it..

    come to think of it, let’s also forgive the Bali bombers and Schapelle Corby as well and now gauge the public’s attitude….

  17. Robert says:

    Achmad Sudarsono said:

    On ’65-66: please, exactly what happened, tell us. And exactly what was Suharto’s role, documents, evidence, dates, times.

    Your statement sounded familiar, it was used by some Holocaust revisionists concerning another person:

    On ’33-45: please, exactly what happened, tell us. And exactly what was Hitler’s role, documents, evidence, dates, times.

    Wir haben es nicht gewusst……

    You get your head out of your arse and read some history, especially on the ’65-66 era. By the way, a mass murderer who realizes 7 percent economic growth in 3 decades is still a mass murderer. Economic growth doesn’t compensate for mass murder, never.

  18. Cukurungan says:

    You get your head out of your arse and read some history, especially on the ’65-66 era. By the way, a mass murderer who realizes 7 percent economic growth in 3 decades is still a mass murderer. Economic growth doesn’t compensate for mass murder, never.

    The outsider might call that process is the mass murderer but we call it the nature mechanism for the population control. If we can forgive the Dutch and Japan for their wrong doing in our country why we could not forgive the some mistake done by our own leader.

    In Javanese and Muslim belief, Leader is a mirror the actual condition of society, if our society is corrupt God will give us a corrupt leader otherwise God will give us a good leaders.

  19. Brett says:

    Wow, tense stuff!!

    I get a bit tired of hearing the same old “economic growth” arguments touted as rationale for abandoning the current civil proceedings. Why??? That just doesn’t make any sense at all.

  20. Oigal says:

    Tsk Tsk Tsk..A rather emotional outburst ASSMAD..ROFLMAO..
    Do I detect a conflict of interest here..

    Surely you and yours have not had your noses in that particular blood tainted trough of misery for dollars

  21. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Not really Oigal, I was just disappointed in you of all people, that you’ve been swept up in the media tide. I was quite calm when I said from where to extract your head.

    But still — no one here’s talking about what happened to welfare and prosperity. New concept for Oigal – human development index (HDI), life expectancy, literacy rates, poverty rates. Have a look at what happened 1966-1998.

    If a child didn’t die because health was better in the village and that was due to the government’s economic policies, in which Suharto was a central figure, is that a life saved ? How bout a farmer who got 20 more years of life ? What about a factory worker who went to school, became a taxi driver and put a kid through uni ?

    How do you measure these against, yes, people killed by security forces. Can we even make these judgements ? It’s complicated, folks.

    There are different people with different feelings about Suharto. Its understandable someone like Oigal, who doesn’t have much insight into Indonesia, could “think” the way he does, coming it at the tail end, seeing the conglomerates etc.

    As for you Robert: how ’bout a quick summary of what happened in ’65 and who was responsible. And please, no Hitler arguments. Plenty of other monsters about. Historians just don’t know yet what happened. We know alot of a people died. We know there was communal bloodletting. We know the army was involved, but who, how, what, when, we don’t.

    Even those forgiving Suharto want the civil proceedings to go ahead. I’m just saying history’s judgement is a murky and complicated one.

  22. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Oigal, Brett, Robert,

    A parting question and a thought.

    Firstly, do any of you speak Bahasa Indonesia ?

    Secondly, what would you have done as the President of Indonesia in 1965 ?

    There’s just been an abortive communist coup (allegedly – see what I mean). Inflation’s at 600%. China and the Soviet Union are vying to finance and support guerilla wars across the region – you’ve got Asia’s second largest communist party – some 20 million people. Finally, your people are desperately, desperately poor.

    So tell us, what is to be done.

    I’m interested in Oigal’s opinion especially, because he likes to present himself as older and wiser.

    No answers ? Didn’t think so.

  23. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    I’m betting these guys have no decent answer to the dilemma presented by Suharto: corruption, repressive security policy, vs rising prosperity for 30 years.

    I’m betting if they answer, it’ll be along the lines of:

    You can’t say that !


    You can’t compare “economic growth” to the loss of human lives. (Yes, you can, sunshine, that’s exactly what economic growth’s about).

    Let’s see. I think Oigal’s conservative Kolor (even know what that word means, Oigal?), is in a conundrum.

  24. Sputjam says:

    Achmad sudarsono said :-

    On Suharto: he delivered three decades of 7 percent economic growth. That meant better lives for a lot of poor people.

    So was other other ASEAN nation before 1997, even the incompetent ones.

    Of course after July 1997, it was a vastly different story. The Rupiah and other ASEAN currencies plunge and every ASEAN nation except Singapore and Brunei saw the value of its currency dropped. Those who were cash rich quickly dumped their money in Singapore, where the forex traders were shorting the currency of their native land for crazy interest rates.

    When these things happened, western press went on a rampage, stating that the financial collapse was due to corrupt government and crony businesses, and world bank ordered the central government to mop up funds and introduce crazy interest rates to shore up the value of the currency. Needless to say, whole businesses collapse and were bought over by foreigners at sale prices.

    Compare these to what is happening in USA presently. They did the opposite. The central government bailed out banks, cut interest rates and pumped money into the system to prevent the economy from collapsing. No allegation of corrupt and shady practices were mentioned, even when the bankers were earning billions in fees selling questionable financial papers.

    I don’t believe that Suharto is guilty of corrupt practices, although his family members and friends may have taken advantage of his position as President. But the law must be justly applied to everyone. Including to retired head of the nation.

    For those who suffered under Suharto, not all were innocent bystanders. I am sure there are many with ill intent, waiting for opportunity to create havoc. Must the leader wait for catastrophe to strike, or act agaisnt those with ill intent before mayhem begins.

  25. T Belfield says:

    What and interesting string of commentary. Simply, the historical record is out there in plain view for all to see. It is what it is, deny it, twist it, forgive it. It does nothing to take away from the truth of the matter.

  26. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    T. Belfield,

    Not it’s not, Belfield. No it’s not. Aside from the fact that there are different versions of history, Indonesia’s still re-writing the basics of 1965.

    So all these ignorant Bozos like Oigal just don’t know what they’re talking about. Why don’t you take up the challenge and tell us exactly what happened in 1965 and what Soeharto did that makes him so bloody.

    Oigal’s the kind of guy who sits around with his mining mates kvetching about the press, but when it comes to the heavy lifting just burys his snout in the foam.

    The conversation usually stops here. We just don’t know yet.

    Sputjam, finally, a balanced assessment.

  27. Rambutan says:

    the exact events in 1965/66 remain murky, that is true. But there is enough evidence pointing to the TNI’s main responsibility for the massacres. Often the military used proxy groups to do the actual killing (NU youth wings for example) but provided intelligence and logistical support. Read Robert Cribb’s book “The Indonesian Killings 1965-1966” for some academic studies on the topic. Accounts do indeed vary, were 500,000 people killed or 2 million? But nobody would deny that the massacres happened and that TNI was to some extent the mastermind. Suharto as the key figure at that time is therefore responsible.

    But we don’t have to focus on 1965/66 exclusively. The annexation of Timor, the conflicts in Aceh and Papua, numerous human rights violations (Tanjung Priok, petrus, 1997/98) are ultimately the responsibility of Suharto.

    I don’t want to paint black and white. Under Suharto’s rule Indonesia experienced growth and all development indicators improved considerably as you pointed out. Compared to the situation in 1965 this was a great improvement and made the life of millions of Indonesians better. However, this development was build on feet of clay as the collapse in 1997/98 proved. Indonesia was hardest hit by the crisis since it had the most corrupt and most authoritarian regime in the region.

    So was do the pros outweigh the cons? Make up your mind. To my mind mass killings and systematic human rights violations cannot be justified by development and in the name of the ‘greater good’.

  28. Achmad Sudarsono says:


    I don’t buy Robert Cribb’s account.

    Also, the feet of clay thing doesn’t stand up either. You can’t take away a lot of the human development, once it’s happened.

    There’s also the question of a pure financial bubble. Check out Austrian economics theory on this one. Financial bubbles just happen. Muddies the water a little in Indonesia’s case. I don’t hear anyone blaming the 1929 financial panic on the “Hoover Regime,” or the 1987 Australian financial bubble on the “Hawke Regime.”

    You admit that the development made the lives of “millions of Indonesians better.” ‘

    How many millions ?
    In what way ?
    How long for ?

    These are important questions.

    Oigal, Robert, your silence is deafening. Discussion a little out of your league ?

  29. dewaratugedeanom says:

    naga said

    come to think of it, let’s also forgive the Bali bombers”¦

    I have a better idea. Let’s feed them only pork. Hopefully they refuse and starve to death. It will spare us the cost of a bullet.

    On second thought, better get rid of them right now. They might start to like it.

  30. Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Tommorow I will expand further.

    Merdeka !

Comment on “Forgiveness”.

RSS feed

Copyright Indonesia Matters 2006-2023
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Contact