A Trial for Soeharto - and also for the Indonesian public

Perspektif Online
13 January 2008

Will the public prevail?

January 13, 2008

The longer the public vacillates over putting Soeharto's crimes on trial, the more the public shows its lack of backbone. If people wonder how the public allowed Soeharto to get away with atrocities and corruption during his years in power, the answer can be seen readily how the same public is allowing Soeharto to elude justice again and again. A comment on this website asked how the Indonesian people were so patient in dealing with Soeharto. The simple answer is that there were a lot of impatient people, but many more people who defended him because they enjoyed the benefits of Soeharto's corrupt rule.

The breakdown should be different now. Soeharto has less power, or no power except the power of his money, so there should be less people on his side. Yet every day television shows dozens of public figures coming to pay him a visit at the hospital. But there is an important difference from the time when obsequious figures fawned around him looking for favors. Now at least when he is in the headlines, many voices remind the public of his alleged criminal past.

Aboeprijadi Santoso wrote in his article “Soeharto's 'liminal' problem” in the Jakarta Post of January 13, 2008  ( too bad their URL is shaky): 

...Over time, it might be expected that both the hospital-visit ritual by the supporters and the debate over Soeharto's legacy, alleged corruption and crimes among his opponents, may become routine and loses relevance. Wrong. The visit ritual and the debate has only intensified as Soeharto's health has gotten worse. Both sides have to get used to it, and silently expect that his final day will soon come... Since Soeharto's rule is viewed as an antithesis of all virtues of democracy, the homage ritual by his supporters cannot be seen as serving Indonesia's new democracy and its people. Soeharto himself never acted similarly: he only visited Gen. A.H. Nasution's and president Sukarno's families after the two men died... On balance, while the hospital visit ritual by Soeharto loyalists does nothing to educate the nation on democracy, the debate and discourse over Soeharto's legacy are clearly more useful -- certainly as many of his critics would remind the public of him being politically responsible for the 1965 mass killings, East Timor genocide, Aceh bloodbath and massive corruption.

Whether Soeharto will stand trial or not (even in absentia) is as much a question of his personna  as well as a test of the public to demand accountability for serious crimes against the people.


101EAST.jpg         aljazeera.jpg

Watch Wimar discuss the Soeharto legacy on Aljazeera TV

101 East, this episode first aired: Thursday, Jan 17, 2008

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  1. From Martha on 13 January 2008 13:13:05 WIB
    lets bring back power to the people (?) or (.) or (!)
  2. From chandra on 13 January 2008 21:14:48 WIB
    At least 7 of 9 National TV stations are owned by Suharto's family or friends. They devote most of their prime air time these days playing the drama of Suharto in his death bed, and wash your brain to believe that majority of people love Suharto.
  3. From dmitri on 14 January 2008 03:44:42 WIB
    dear all, can anyone put up a website and upload photoes of people who visited soeharto on his rotting out days?

    we need a list to help us elect for better indonesia.
  4. From wimar on 14 January 2008 04:04:39 WIB
    even without the photos, a list of names would be useful.
  5. From Martin Manurung on 14 January 2008 15:11:00 WIB
    Thanks WW, for your clear perspective, as always!
  6. From najjara on 14 January 2008 19:47:47 WIB
    Many Indonesians think that Suharto's New Order was better. They seem to ignore that our present bad days is Suharto's legacy.What a forgetful nation!
  7. From Herman Saksono on 15 January 2008 12:56:13 WIB
    Well said Najjara :)

    I really dont understand how could Indonesians so willingly pardon Soeharto, while at the same time they are suffering due to Soeharto's legacy.

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to see WW's in Aljazeera :)
  8. From asep on 15 January 2008 19:39:14 WIB
    Ide bagus pak dmitri dan Bung WW, nama2 plus foto (jika ada) lalu dimuat di kompas satu halaman penuh!

    Kapan nih....?

  9. From fatan jauhar on 17 January 2008 01:56:25 WIB
    forgetting soeharto's sins is too easy for Indonesians.
    what a 'nice' nation!
    what a 'lucky' guy!
  10. From dmitri on 18 January 2008 01:22:47 WIB
    dear Herman Saksono,
    only when a good guy start knocking on doors, speak to people at home over a pisang goreng and unfiltered coffee, speaking about the results of legacies and a simple plan to show people how they could make money without help from other people. so far, ironically, i only see/hear how a few salesmen actually come close to this. which is sad. Indonesian prospective leaders do not want to pay the price for becoming one. they're less daring than a person selling soap. not even army leaders would do such thing. name me a contemporary general whose gone from Aceh to Papua, meeting people at their homes, to discuss about an opportunity? i know two men who'd done that at least in Sumut, DKI, Jabar, Bali, Den Pasar, Makassar, Kupang and Papua. he does it by selling soap, among other things. but unfortunately for us, the generals and DPR/MPR members dont even know how voters wash their butt and with what kind of water, while the soapman has no ambition to be a president. i would've vote for that soapman. i bet you he'd put Soeharto into a clean grave himself, with his own hands.
  11. From thea on 18 January 2008 13:00:49 WIB
    I think he must stand in trial even in-absentia. Whether he will go to jail or not, it's another thing. At least the corrupted money can utilized for the people life quality's improvement.
  12. From Amalkan Nasution on 18 January 2008 14:47:44 WIB
    Bener om WW secara hukum memang harus terus di laksanakan proses hukumnya.
    Secara manusia Pak Harto kan cuma manusia biasa. Ntar kalo dah sembuh baru kita masalahin lagi. Sekarang mah percuma.....
    Orang Indonesia yang baca artikel yang di buat Om WW ini mah udah pada ngerti. coba dech orang2 yang pada ga baca.... kasianb ga tau apa2. Tugas kita tuch buat mengedukasi mereka.

  13. From nina on 31 January 2008 13:03:45 WIB
    Soeharto's cases still have to be trialed even tho in-absentia. he corrupted way too much to be easily pardoned.

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