And as he lay in hospital, kept alive by the scientific marvel of a life support machine, victims of his repressive regime fumed at the failure to prosecute him for mass murder of at least half a million killed during his 32 years in power. During the mid-1960s, Suharto supervised a purge of suspected Communists that saw between 500,000 and a million lives snuffed out in cold blood. Until the world learnt of the Khmer Rouge's atrocities in Cambodia a decade later, it was the bloodiest event in the region since the Second World War.
However, his children and business cronies waxed lyrical about his qualities, having reaped the bountiful fruits of his inglorious reign. Transparency International, the anti-corruption pressure group, estimated that Suharto amassed a personal fortune of between $15bn and $35bn, much of it through bribes and kickbacks. His wife was nicknamed "Ibu Ten Percent" for obvious reasons. Suharto also learnt to make effective use of lawyers, he won a $106m lawsuit against Time magazine after it suggested his family stashed away $15bn of state funds.
Quite naturally, not too many world leaders made a beeline to his bedside. The notable few who did: Malaysia's ex-president Mahathir Mohamad, Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, and the then Philippine President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They lauded Suharto for promoting regional unity. Lee's cogent contribution spoke volumes about their shared values:
“Yes, there was corruption. Yes, he gave favors to his family and his friends. But there was real growth, real progress… What is a few billion dollars lost in bad excesses? He built hundreds of billions of dollars worth of assets. I think the people of Indonesia are lucky. They had a general in charge, had a team of competent administrators including a very good team of economists.”
Lee Kuan Yew died at 3.18am today at the Singapore General Hospital. He was 91.
|Digital art created with AndreaMosaic|