Five facts about former Indonesian president Suharto | World News - Hindustan Times

Five facts about former Indonesian president Suharto

None | By
Jan 27, 2008 12:50 PM IST

Indonesia's former strongman president Suharto died on Sunday. He was 86. Following are key facts about Suharto.

Indonesia's former strongman president Suharto died on Sunday. He was 86.

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He had suffered strokes and other ailments since resigning as president in 1998, although some critics claimed his illnesses were at times exaggerated in a successful effort to avoid being tried over graft charges.

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Following are key facts about Suharto.


-- Suharto's background was humble. He was born on June 8, 1921. His father was a minor official in the village of Kemusuk in Central Java, but after his parents divorced, he was shunted among relatives.

-- Working first as a bank clerk, he later joined the Dutch colonial army. During the Japanese 1942-45 occupation, Suharto was an officer in the Japanese-trained "Indonesian army", and afterwards fought with Indonesian forces against the Dutch.


-- The army general moved into the limelight in 1965 when he announced six of his fellow generals had been killed in what was officially called an attempted communist coup. The alleged coup attempt was followed by an anti-communist purge in which up to 500,000 people died.

-- Suharto's own role in events remains controversial. But as leader of the army's crack strategic command, he was able to bring order out of the chaos and enhance his image and influence, setting the stage for his takeover of the presidency when founding father Sukarno reluctantly resigned in 1967.


-- Taking power in 1966, he officially became president in 1967. He stayed in office until May 21, 1998. His rule was marked by rapid economic growth and political stability, but at a price that included severe restrictions on human rights and free speech, and military crackdowns on dissenters and separatist movements.

-- Suharto aligned Indonesia with the West geopolitically and opened it to foreign investment. But despite relatively liberal economic policies, Indonesia's state sector had considerable influence. Graft was endemic, and favoured entrepreneurs were allowed to set up their own banks and operate them as personal cash cows.


-- Suharto stepped down under pressure during the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, which caused a meltdown of Indonesia's rupiah currency and banking system. The International Monetary Fund later stepped in with what ultimately was a $45 billion bailout.


-- Critics said the former strongman and his family corruptly amassed up to $45 billion. Attempts to try him for graft were first made in 2000, but Suharto failed to appear in court and was later declared too ill to stand trial.

-- Suharto and his relatives denied the charges. Only one of his six children, Hutomo Mandala Putra, better known as Tommy, went to jail, serving time for the murder of a judge who ruled against him in a graft case.

-- Later in life Suharto, a widower, lived in the leafy Jakarta residential area of Menteng, making few public appearances.

(Writing by Jerry Norton; editing by Rob Dawson and Gill Murdoch)

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