US supported east timor massacre
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|"The invasion, supported by the U.S. according to declassified State Department documents, resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 East Timorese"|
Suharto, Indonesian Dictator for 32 Years, Dies at 86 (Update3)
By Claire Leow and Berni Moestafa
Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Former Indonesian President Suharto, who ruled the world's largest Muslim population for almost 32 years and was ousted amid economic strife, allegations of corruption and violent pro-democracy protests, died today in a Jakarta hospital. He was 86.
The cause of death was multiple organ failure, Djoko Rahardjo, one of Suharto's doctors at the Pertamina Hospital in the Indonesian capital, told reporters. Suharto had been resuscitated overnight, doctors said earlier. He first suffered multiple organ failure on Jan. 11, after being admitted on Jan. 4.
Suharto's rule, one of Asia's longest, produced an economy dominated by family and friends and a military of unchecked influence. Pak, or father, Harto was credited with holding together a sprawling archipelago of 230 million people, made up of 300 ethnic groups, and blamed for the deaths of at least 500,000 people in the chaotic years after he took power.
``He was a mega-sultan of a mega-country,'' Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and a contemporary, wrote in his memoirs. ``His heroes were not Washington or Jefferson, but the sultans of Solo in central Java.''
The government declared a seven-day mourning period, State Secretary Hatta Rajasa said, cited by ElShinta Radio. Suharto will be buried tomorrow near the town of Solo in Central Java province, the radio said, citing Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi.
Suharto ensured no deputy developed a power base by installing six vice presidents in his seven terms. After he was ousted, ethnic and religious bloodshed erupted, from massacres in East Timor to separatist fighting in Aceh.
On economic development, Suharto succeeded where the rulers of other resource-rich nations, such as Angola and Zaire, now Congo, stumbled: he used oil, gas, timber and other resources to spur growth and social change.
Indonesia's economy grew 6.1 percent annually during the 1980s, making it among the 10 fastest growing, according to the World Bank.
Per-capita income quadrupled under Suharto and the ratio of those living in absolute poverty declined from more than three people in five to about one in 10 by 1998. Life expectancy grew from 49 years in the early 1970s to 66 in 1999, the World Bank said.
Suharto ``began his presidency by courting foreign investment'' and was ``very pragmatic in matters of economics,'' George A. Mealey, a commissioner of PT Freeport Indonesia, wrote in his account of Freeport's investments in the country. Freeport, part of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., has the world's largest gold deposit in Papua and is Indonesia's largest taxpayer.
Suharto became army chief of staff in 1965 and crushed a communist coup that year, and then moved to replace President Sukarno. He became acting president in 1967, and was elected to the position in March 1968.
In death Suharto took with him the answer to Indonesia's most-disputed question: the whereabouts of a letter that Suharto said Sukarno, who died under house arrest, gave to the general authorizing him to take power.
The Suharto family amassed a fortune of as much as $15 billion in cash, property, art, jewelry and jet planes, according to a 1999 Time magazine article. Presidential favors and monopolies helped build an empire that included toll roads, telephone companies, television stations, newspapers, airlines, hotels and banks, according to the magazine.
He is alleged to have stolen as much as $35 billion, 1.3 percent a year on average of Indonesia's gross domestic product, according to a report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in September. Mohammad Assegaf, Suharto's lawyer, has said the UN report is ``nonsense and illegitimate. There is no investigation to back the report.''
Indonesia's Supreme Court last year ordered Time Warner Inc. to pay Suharto 1 trillion rupiah ($105 million) in damages in a libel suit for publishing the article. Time magazine is challenging the ruling. Indonesian prosecutors have also filed a $1.5 billion civil case for alleged misappropriation of funds against Suharto and his foundation, Yayasan Supersemar.
His youngest son, Hutomo Mandala Putra, known as Tommy Suharto, was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2002 for ordering the murder of a judge who had convicted him of corruption in a multimillion-dollar land deal.
Suharto was born on June 8, 1921, in the farming village of Kemusuk in central Java. Relatives raised him and his formal education stopped at high school.
In his 20s, Suharto, rejected a job as a cook in the Dutch navy and enlisted in the Royal Netherlands Indies Army, a stint interrupted by the start of World War II.
He fought Dutch efforts to reassert colonial control and separatist attempts in Sulawesi province. By 1963, Major General Suharto had risen to the rank of chief of the elite Strategic Reserves Command.
The 1965 coup attempt and the overthrow of Sukarno marked a turning point in Suharto's destiny and that of Indonesia.
In September 1965, with the economy in shambles, Java Island -- where most Indonesians live -- was facing famine.
On the night of Sept. 30, a group of junior army officers kidnapped and killed six top generals, leaving the army rudderless. Officially, the killings were cast as part of a communist anti-government plot.
By morning, Suharto was at the head of the armed forces, purging rivals and ending civilian rule. His reign started with terror, with more than 500,000 people killed in civil unrest, most accused of having ties to communists.
He also ordered the invasion of East Timor in 1975 after the colonial power, Portugal, was forced out.
The invasion, supported by the U.S. according to declassified State Department documents, resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 East Timorese by the time the country gained independence in 1999, the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste, as the country is now called, said in a report.
Throughout his rule, Suharto exerted an influence he saw as commensurate with his perceived status: that of a Javanese king who amassed power and status through complex patron-client relations. Indonesia's highest legislative body became a rubber stamp for his directives. The press was censored.
He used the extensive grassroots connections of the Golkar Party to harvest votes. Golkar dominated Indonesia's political scene until the 1999 elections, the country's first democratic ballot in the postwar era, when the party won the second-largest number of seats.
The 1997 Asian financial crisis revealed Suharto's inability to grapple with such new realities as freer flows of capital and global competition. Public resentment against the Suharto family's wealth also peaked.
At the height of the tumult, the rupiah lost 80 percent of its value, interest rates soared and the country plunged into its first recession since the 1960s. Indonesian companies faced insolvency, with $78 billion of foreign debt.
``The economy grew, but social and economic disparity also increased,'' said Didiek Rachbini, an economist at the University of Indonesia and a lawmaker. ``That situation made him vulnerable so that when the crisis hit Indonesia, he was easily toppled.''
Dealing with an intransigent president and sudden mass poverty, students led the public in staging street protests in 1998. When some were shot in mid-May, violent riots broke out and paralyzed the capital. Almost 1,000 people died. Suharto resigned on May 21, 1998.
``For the sake of the unity of the nation, I hereby declare I am stepping down,'' he said, his head bowed, in a live, nationwide television address.
After resigning, Suharto suffered numerous health problems. He had a pacemaker implanted in 2001 and was hospitalized several times for intestinal bleeding and exhaustion. He suffered three strokes and had to undergo surgery to remove a blood clot in his stomach last year.
He entered Pertamina Hospital in south Jakarta on Jan. 4 with anemia and a slow heart rate.
Suharto's health prompted the Attorney General to rule him unfit to stand trial on corruption charges involving his role in $578 million of missing state money.
He is survived by six children. His wife, Tien, died in April 1996. Suharto's wish was to be buried near his late wife, near Surakarta, or Solo, in central Java, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) from Jakarta.
Last Updated: January 27, 2008 08:23 EST