84 Facts About Suharto


Suharto or Soeharto was an Indonesian army officer and politician, who served as the second and the longest serving president of Indonesia.


Widely regarded as a military dictator by international observers, Suharto led Indonesia as an authoritarian regime from the fall of his predecessor Sukarno in 1967 until his resignation in 1998 following nationwide unrest.


Suharto was born in the small village of Kemusuk, in the Godean area near the city of Yogyakarta, during the Dutch colonial era.


The army subsequently led a nationwide violent anti-communist purge and Suharto wrested power from Indonesia's founding president, Sukarno.


Suharto was appointed acting president in 1967 and elected president the following year.


Suharto then mounted a social campaign known as "de-Sukarnoization" to reduce the former president's influence.


Suharto ordered an invasion of East Timor in 1975, followed by a deadly 23-year occupation of the country.


Support for Suharto's presidency was active throughout the 1970s and 1980s.


Suharto died in January 2008 and was given a state funeral.


Under his "New Order" administration, Suharto constructed a strong, centralised and military-dominated government.


Plans to award the status of National Hero to Suharto are being considered by the Indonesian government and have been debated vigorously in Indonesia.


The spelling "Suharto" reflects modern Indonesian orthography, although the general approach in Indonesia is to rely on the spelling preferred by the person concerned.


Suharto was born on 8 June 1921 in a plaited-bamboo-walled house in the hamlet of Kemusuk, a part of the larger village of Godean, then part of the Dutch East Indies.


Suharto's father, Kertosudiro, had two children from his previous marriage and was a village irrigation official.


At the age of three, Suharto was returned to his mother, who had married a local farmer whom Suharto helped in the rice paddies.


In 1929, Suharto's father took him to live with his sister, who was married to an agricultural supervisor, Prawirowihardjo, in the town of Wuryantoro in a poor and low-yielding farming area near Wonogiri.


The experience deeply affected him and later, as president, Suharto surrounded himself with powerful symbolic language.


Suharto's upbringing contrasts with that of leading Indonesian nationalists such as Sukarno in that he is believed to have had little interest in anti-colonialism, or political concerns beyond his immediate surroundings.


Unlike Sukarno and his circle, Suharto had little or no contact with European colonisers.


Suharto learned to speak Dutch after his induction into the Dutch military in 1940.


Suharto finished middle school at the age of 18 and took a clerical job at a bank in Wuryantaro.


Suharto was forced to resign after a bicycle mishap tore his only working clothes.


Suharto was assigned to Battalion XIII at Rampal, graduated from a short training course at KNIL Kaderschool in Gombong to become a sergeant, and was posted to a KNIL reserve battalion in Cisarua.


In October 1943, Suharto was transferred from the police force to the newly formed Japanese-sponsored militia, the Pembela Tanah Air in which Indonesians served as officers.


Suharto was posted to a PETA coastal defence battalion at Wates, south of Yogyakarta until he was admitted for training for company commander in Bogor from April to August 1944.


The Japanese surrender and Proclamation of Indonesian Independence in August 1945 occurred while Suharto was posted to the remote Brebeg area to train new NCOs to replace those executed by the Japanese in the aftermath of the failed February 1945 PETA Revolt in Blitar, led by Supriyadi.


Suharto disbanded his regiment under orders from the Japanese command and returned to Yogyakarta.


Suharto was involved in fighting against Allied troops around Magelang and Semarang and was appointed the head of a brigade as lieutenant-colonel, having earned respect as a field commander.


Suharto led his Division X troops to halt an advance by the Dutch T Brigade on 17 May 1946.


Conditions at the time are reported by Dutch sources as miserable; Suharto himself is reported as assisting smuggling syndicates in the transport of opium through the territory he controlled, to generate income.


In September 1948, Suharto was dispatched to meet Musso, chairman of the Indonesian Communist Party in an unsuccessful attempt at a peaceful reconciliation of the communist uprising in Madiun.


Suharto was appointed to lead the Wehrkreise III, consisting of two battalions, which waged guerrilla warfare against the Dutch from the hills south of Yogyakarta.


However, General Abdul Nasution said that Suharto took great care in preparing the "General Offensive".


Suharto was responsible for the takeover of Yogyakarta city from the withdrawing Dutch in June 1949.


In January 1962, Suharto was promoted to the rank of major general and appointed to lead Operation Mandala, a joint army-navy-air force command based in Makassar.


In 1965, Suharto was assigned operational command of Sukarno's Konfrontasi, against the newly formed Malaysia.


Suharto had been in Jakarta army hospital that evening with his three-year-old son Tommy who had a scalding injury.


Suharto mobilised KOSTRAD and RPKAD special forces to seize control of the centre of Jakarta, capturing key strategic sites including the radio station without resistance.


Suharto said he was in control of the army, and that he would crush the Movement and safeguard Sukarno.


Sukarno continued to command loyalty from large sections of the armed forces as well as the general population, and Suharto was careful not to be seen to be seizing power in his own coup.


Street fights broke out between the students and pro-Sukarno loyalists with the pro-Suharto students prevailing due to army protection.


The army arrested pro-Sukarno and pro-communist members of the MPRS, and Suharto replaced chiefs of the navy, air force, and the police force with his supporters, who then began an extensive purge within each service.


Suharto did not seek Sukarno's outright removal at this MPRS session due to the remaining support for the president among some elements of the armed forces.


Suharto promoted his "New Order", as opposed to Sukarno's "Old Order", as a society based on the Pancasila ideology.


Suharto instituted mandatory Pancasila training programs for all Indonesians, from primary school students to office workers.


Suharto, aided by his "Office of Personal Assistants" clique of military officers from his days as commander of Diponegoro Division, particularly Ali Murtopo, began to systematically cement his hold on power by subtly sidelining potential rivals while rewarding loyalists with political position and monetary incentives.


Suharto sent Dharsono overseas as an ambassador, while Idris and Wibowo were sent to distant North Sumatra and South Sulawesi as regional commanders.


Suharto learned that the riots were engineered by Sumitro to destabilise the government, resulting in Sumitro's dismissal and forced retirement.


Suharto refused to address the petitioners' concerns, and some of them were imprisoned with others having restrictions imposed on their movements.


Golkar won landslide majorities in the MPR at every election, ensuring that Suharto would be able to pass his agenda with virtually no opposition.


Suharto proceeded with various social engineering projects designed to transform Indonesian society into a de-politicised "floating mass" supportive of the national mission of "development", a concept similar to corporatism.


Additionally, Suharto relied on the military to ruthlessly maintain domestic security, organised by the Kopkamtib and BAKIN.


Suharto authorised Operasi Trisula which destroyed PKI-remnants trying to organise a guerrilla base in the Blitar area in 1968 and ordered several military operations that ended the communist PGRS-Paraku insurgency in West Kalimantan.


Notably, in March 1981, Suharto authorised a successful special forces mission to end hijacking of a Garuda Indonesia flight by Islamic extremists at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok.


In 1968, Suharto commenced the highly successful family-planning program to stem the high population growth rate and hence increasing per-capita income.


Suharto travelled to Western Europe and Japan to promote investment in Indonesia.


Outside the formal economy, Suharto created a network of charitable organisations run by the military and his family members, which extracted "donations" from domestic and foreign enterprises in exchange for necessary government support and permits.


Suharto claimed the move was to prevent the establishment of a communist state.


Indonesia's invasion and occupation of East Timor during Suharto's presidency resulted in at least 100,000 deaths.


Suharto was keen to capitalize on such achievements to justify his presidency, and the parliament on 9 March 1983 granted him the title of "Father of Development".


Suharto decided to support the growth of a small number of Chinese-Indonesian conglomerates since they would not pose a political challenge due to their ethnic-minority status, but from his experience, he deemed them to possess the skills and capital needed to create real growth for the country.


Meanwhile, the myriad of yayasans run by the Suharto family grew even larger, levying millions of dollars in "donations" from the public and private sectors each year.


The Suharto family owned or controlled 3.6 million hectares of prime Indonesian land, an area comparable to all of Belgium, and directly owned or had controlling equity in at least 564 companies, with no Indonesian economic sector untouched.


In 1984, the Suharto government sought increased control over the press by issuing a law requiring all media to possess a press operating license which could be revoked at any time by Ministry of Information.


Suharto was elected as head of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1992, while Indonesia became a founding member of APEC in 1989 and host to the Bogor APEC Summit in 1994.


Domestically, the business dealings of Suharto's family created discontent amongst the military who lost access to power and lucrative rent-seeking opportunities.


Suharto proceeded to slowly "de-militarise" his regime; he dissolved the powerful Kopkamtib in September 1988 and ensured key military positions were held by loyalists.


Suharto undertook a much-publicised hajj pilgrimage in 1991, took up the name of Haji Mohammad Suharto, and promoted Islamic values and the careers of Islamic-oriented generals.


In 1995, Suharto released a special 1,54 troy ounce gold coin worth of 850,000 rupiah with his face on one side of the coin in the celebration of 50th anniversary of Indonesian Independence.


In December 1997, Suharto did not attend an ASEAN presidents' summit for the first time, which was later revealed to be due to a minor stroke, creating speculation about his health and the immediate future of his presidency.


Golkar won the rigged 1997 election, and in March 1998, Suharto was voted unanimously to another five-year term.


The crisis climaxed while Suharto was on a state visit to Egypt on 12 May 1998, when security forces killed four demonstrators from Jakarta's Trisakti University.


On 21 May 1998, Suharto announced his resignation, upon which vice-president Habibie assumed the presidency in accordance with the constitution.


Recently released documents from the United States Department of State indicate that the Clinton Administration sought to maintain close ties with the Indonesian military in the aftermath of Suharto's fall from power.


Suharto's family spent much of their time fending off corruption investigations.


However, Suharto himself was protected from grave prosecution by politicians who owed their positions to the former president, as indicated in the leaked telephone conversation between President Habibie and attorney-general Andi Muhammad Ghalib in February 1999.


On 29 May 2000, Suharto was placed under house arrest when Indonesian authorities began to investigate the corruption during his presidency.


Suharto later won a reduction of his sentence to two years, initiating a probe by the Corruption Eradication Commission into the alleged scandal of the "judicial mafia" which uncovered offers of $600,000 to various judges.


On 9 July 2007, Indonesian prosecutors filed a civil lawsuit against Suharto, to recover state funds.


Suharto's declining health hindered attempts to prosecute him as his lawyers successfully claimed that his condition rendered him unfit for trial.


On 4 January 2008, Suharto was taken to the Pertamina Central Hospital, Jakarta with complications arising from poor health, swelling of limbs and stomach, and partial renal failure.


Suharto's health fluctuated for several weeks but progressively worsened with anaemia and low blood pressure due to heart and kidney complications, internal bleeding, fluid on his lungs, and blood in his faeces and urine which caused a haemoglobin drop.


Suharto's body was taken from Jakarta to the Astana Giribangun mausoleum complex in Karanganyar Regency, near the Central Java city of Solo.


Suharto was buried alongside his late wife in a state military funeral with full honours, with the Kopassus elite forces and KOSTRAD commandos as the honour guard and pallbearers and Commander of Group II Kopassus Surakarta Lt.