Suharto became progressively more rigid, authoritarian and corrupt during his decades in power. Amnesty International said in a report that Indonesia was a country ruled with an iron rod, where dissidence is punished by imprisonment, torture and death." Amnesty International said that one of it investigators met with three Indonesian men who were tortured with electric shocks for releasing balloons with pro-democracy messages inside. Travel writer Norman Lewis wrote: "Keep profile low. In Indonesia that is the golden rule."

After Suharto took power he banned all but two newspapers and often it seemed like their job was to depict the Communist Party as villains. He closed down publications critical of his government and family and thumbed his nose at freedom of the press. He outlawed true opposition parties and brutally cracked down on dissent and limited freedom of speech and undermined rivals using rumors and disinformation.

Challenges to the Suharto Regime

Underlying these New Order initiatives for political and economic change was an important but largely undiscussed continuity in some fundamental ideas about the nature of both the nation and the state. Consistent with the ideas of the founders of independent Indonesia, New Order architects viewed the state as necessarily unitary and powerful, having little patience with notions of federalism or decentralization of powers. Indeed, civilian and military leaders alike appear to have assumed that only this highly centric form of state authority could bring about the political stability and economic growth they sought. The same leaders also inherited assumptions about the extent and unity of a national territory generally accepted as comprising the former Netherlands East Indies and did not find other suggestions tolerable. [Source: Library of Congress *]

These convictions led among other things to raising an enlarged, more centralized bureaucratic structure for the New Order state, and requiring administrative authorities to apply centrally developed policies on matters ranging from taxes to traditional performances, education to elections, firmly and uniformly throughout the nation. Seen from the government perspective, the effort represented a rational, modern approach, while to critics it often appeared narrow, oppressive, and self-serving. Resentment and debate, as well as legal and physical struggles, over such issues were a regular feature of life under New Order governance. *

Voices of democratic opposition were heard May 5, 1980, when a group called the Petition of Fifty, composed of former generals, political leaders, academicians, students, and others, called for greater political freedom. In 1984 the group accused Suharto of attempting to establish a one-party state through his Pancasila policy. In the wake of the 1984-85 violence, one of the Petition of Fifty's leaders, Lieutenant General H.R. Dharsono, who had served as secretary general of ASEAN, was put on trial for antigovernment activities and sentenced to a ten-year jail term (from which he was released in 1990). *

Crackdowns and Violence Under the Suharto Regime

Ellen Nakashima wrote in the Washington Post: “From 1965 to 1971, perhaps half a million people were killed during the dictatorship of Gen. Suharto, who governed the country for three decades. Hundreds of thousands more were imprisoned in a purge of supposed communists and leftists. No independent investigation has ever been conducted; no one has been held to account. Indonesian officials have been loath to face the past. The survivors, emboldened by the end of the Suharto dictatorship in 1998, have only recently begun breaking their silence to set history straight. They want the world to know about the mass killings and to get Indonesia to face its past. [Source: Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post Foreign Service, October 30, 2005]

To maintain power Suharto employed a divide and rule strategy and never gave anything away to keep his enemies off guard. Ethnic, religious and regional divisions were kept under wraps— but simmering below the surface—through repression not negotiation. According to The Guardian: “Suharto survived the growth of discontent through the ruthless use of an intelligence apparatus. Muslim militants were jailed and social protest suppressed. More subtly, the older politicians whom he had supplanted were allowed to form an ineffective "group of 50" in 1980.”

Suharto ordered the invasion of East Timor in 1975. A massacre in November 1991 led to international condemnation of Indonesia's policies in East Timor. Also brutal but less visible were crack downs in Aceh and Irian Jaya. See East Timor, Aceh and Papua.

See Year of Living Dangerously, Military and Human Rights

Massacre at the Rat Hole in Lorejo in 1968

Reporting from Lorejo, Ellen Nakashima wrote in the Washington Post: “An old man, thin and stooped, raised a wooden stick over his head and swung it down with both hands. This, he said, was how he executed fellow villagers, striking their necks with an iron bar. The kneeling victims, tied together by their thumbs, tumbled two by two into a hole, now a mass grave. "I was ordered to kill these people by the army," said Katirin, 75. "If I refused, they would shoot me. . . . I was so afraid, I just did it." As Katirin demonstrated how he executed people in the 1960s, a widow, Supiyem, watched silently, her eyes cold. Her husband was among those slain on this remote hill at the eastern end of the Indonesian island of Java. For Katirin, the killer, it apparently was a gesture of atonement. Many victims were peasants like Supiyem's husband, Duryadi, who knew little of Marx or Mao. [Source: Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post Foreign Service, October 30, 2005 /+]

“Katirin is one of the few living witnesses to the 1968 massacre of at least 100 villagers over several weeks at the Rat Hole, in the woods of Lorejo village. The unmarked mass grave is among hundreds of stony, muddy and watery tombs. Katirin estimated that he killed 10 people (he had previously told a researcher he killed dozens), but none was Supiyem's husband, whose murder left Supiyem a widow with an infant son, Pujianto or "Puput.'' Supiyem said that Katirin's role in the killings disgusted her but that she did not hold him accountable. She blames the Indonesian army and the Suharto regime, who bade villagers like Katirin to do their dirty work. /+\

“Suharto and his successors have never acknowledged the army's involvement in the massacres. The killings here in south Blitar, were part of state-sanctioned brutality against people in thousands of villages across Indonesia, said Albertus Suryo Wicaksono, a researcher who in 2002 spent one week excavating Luweng Tikus. The 1968 massacre here was part of a four-month army campaign ordered by Suharto to finish off the party. No one knows the overall death toll from the purges — guesses range from 300,000 to more than 1 million, but the most credible estimate, several academics said, is 500,000. /+\

“Supiyem had been married only one year when, in August 1968, her husband was killed. Duryadi, a rice farmer, belonged to a farmers group that supported the Communist land reform program. Two of Supiyem's younger brothers were arrested and marched away, never to return. A third brother was detained and released, by his count, 11 times that year. To save that brother from death, she recalled, she forced herself to serve as "a wife" for the new village head. For seven years, she said, she endured Sarmin, who moved in with her at her parents' house. She cooked and cleaned for him. She slept with him. "I shut down my feelings," she said, staring into the distance. "It was unthinkable." Sarmin left the village in 1975, when his term ended, she said. He died in the late 1990s. /+\

Massacre in Tanjung Priok in 1984

The Pancasila policy aroused strong opposition among politically active Muslims. Riots broke out in the Tanjung Priok port area of Jakarta on September 12, 1984, and a wave of bombings and arson took place in 1985. Targets included the Borobudur Buddhist temple, the palace of the Sunan of Surakarta, commercial districts in Jakarta, and the headquarters of the Indonesian state radio. *

In 1984 in Tanjung Priok, soldiers opened fire on a group of demonstrators protesting the detainment of four Muslim men. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, were killed. A leader of the demonstration later told the Washington Post, “There was no warning.” He said he was shot in the ankle and one man to his right and three men to his left were killed by bullets. He said he played dead and was loaded onto a truck with at least a dozen corpses.

Another leader told the Washington Post that he heard about the protest while attending a prayer session at a local mosque. He carried a green banner with an Islamic slogan written on it. He said the crowds was several thousand strong. They advanced towards a local military headquarters and were met by a large government military unit with their guns drawn and baronets pointed at the protestors.

After initially opening fire, the soldiers began hunting down survivors. The man carrying the green banner said he was hit in the chest and right arm. One soldier, he said, came up to him. “He shouted, ‘This one’s still alive!’ He tried to shoot me once. the bullet came very close to my head but missed. He also played dead and was loaded on a truck piled with corpses, in this case four deep. “It was impossible for me to count the number of bodies because of the conditions and the fear and the pain.”

Political Prisoners Under Suharto

Political prisoners were imprisoned without charges or trials and sent off to Gulag-like prison camps, where many were executed or died from starvation. Outside the prisons family members of prisoners were harassed, humiliated and persecuted.

Denied even the simplest tools, the prisoners were forced to clear land with their bare hands. In some cases prisoners were denied books and cigarettes out of concern that the paper used to make them might be used for the paper to right messages.

As of 1975, ten years after the 1965 coup, the Indonesian government still held 70,000 political prisoners, most of whom never were given a trial. Even after the were released many were not allowed to return to their homes, They were forced t live in “transmigration camps that were not much better than the prison camps they had previously been in.

Buru Island Humanitarian Project

Under Suharto, some 12,000 political prisoners were sent to the Buru island in eastern Spice Island to the "Humanitarian Project" there, where dissidents, suspected communist, sympathizers, lawyers, professors, doctors and "the shining light of Indonesia's intelligencia" toiled in the hot sun. Many died from torture, gun shot wounds from guards, blows from falling trees, spear wounds from local residents, starvation, malaria, filariasis (a mosquito-born disease that produced elephantiasis) hepatitis, tuberculosis and other diseases.

Described as a tropical Siberian gulag, the Buru Island Humanitarian Center was established in 1969. It consisted of camps built around wooden barracks that housed 50 prisoners each. The prisoners grew corn and rice, felled trees, built roads, cultivated the land, and constructed buildings. Many of the prisoners were detained for more than a decade without being charged or given a trial.

After initially being detained on the island of Nusa Kembangan, off the south Java coast, the prominent Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer was moved, along with thousands of other political prisoners, to Buru. Pramoedya was in prison from 1965 to 1979. Twelve of those years were spent on Buru Island. "Everyone here has been tortured," he said. "I was beaten first by my non-comm and then by the colonel himself. I had gone into the woods one day without permission. The colonel punched me in the stomach and hit me on the head."

Prisoners were prohibited from having reading material and those found possessing a book or a magazine risked being tortured or severely punished or even executed. On one occasion, Pramoedya said, a man found some scraps of newspaper while unwrapping something. Three day later he was found dead in a river with his hands tied behind his back.

Banned from possessing paper or a pen during his first years at Buru, Pramoedya wrote the historical novels for which he is famous in his head, offering installments each day to his fellow prisoners who helped him remember and get his facts straight. Eventually a sympathetic general allowed him to have pen and paper and, later, a typewriter. To win these favors he used money he earned from selling duck eggs.

John Aglionby wrote in The Guardian, “ ”The scale of the suffering on Buru island eventually came to light through The Mute's Soliloquy, an autobiographical work published decades later - and in English in 1999 - with numerous incidents recorded on scraps of paper that were smuggled out by a sympathetic Catholic priest. Most of the prisoners, including Pramoedya, were moved from Buru in 1979, but the writer was only released as a result of intensive lobbying by numerous foreign diplomats. He was confined to Jakarta until 1992.[Source: John Aglionby, The Guardian, May 3, 2006]

Suharto and West Papua

Inherited sensitivity to potential challenges to national unity also led to military involvement—and long-term enmities—in several corners of the archipelago. The first of these took place in West New Guinea (later called Irian Jaya, now the provinces of Papua and Papua Barat). During the 1949 Round Table Conference, the Dutch had refused to discuss the status of this territory, which, upon recognition of Indonesian independence, was still unresolved. Conflict over the issue escalated during the early 1960s, as the Dutch prepared to declare a separate state, and Sukarno responded with a military campaign. In August 1962, the Dutch were pressed by world opinion to turn over West New Guinea to the UN, which permitted Indonesia to administer the territory for a five-year period until an unspecified “Act of Free Choice” could be held. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Thus it fell to the New Order to complete a project begun by the Old Order. Ali Murtopo—with the military support of troops commanded by Sarwo Edhie Wibowo (1927–89)—arranged the campaign that, in mid-1969, produced a consensus among more than 1,000 designated local leaders in favor of integration with the Indonesian state. This decision was soon approved by the UN, and the territory became Indonesia’s twenty-sixth province before the end of the year. The integration process did not go unopposed, however. Initial bitterness came from Papuans who had stood to benefit from a Dutch-sponsored independence and who formed the Free Papua Organization (OPM) in 1965. But resentment soon spread because of Jakarta’s placement of thousands of troops and officials in the territory, exploitation of natural resources (for example, by signing contracts for mining rights with the U.S. corporation Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold in 1967), encouragement of settlers from Java and elsewhere, and interference with local traditions such as dress and religious beliefs. OPM leaders declared Papua’s secession in 1971 and began a guerrilla resistance. Despite internal splits, OPM resistance continued throughout the New Order era, peaking in the mid-1980s and again in the mid-1990s, attracting a significant ABRI presence. *

Suharto and Aceh

In Aceh, northern Sumatra, resistance to Jakarta’s extension of authority arose in the mid-1970s. This area, known for its 30-year struggle against Dutch rule in the nineteenth century, had also found it necessary to fight for its autonomy after independence, in a movement led by the Muslim political figure Muhammad Daud Beureueh (1899–1987) and affiliated with Darul Islam. Aceh won status as a separate province in 1957 and as a semiautonomous special territory with greater local control of religious matters in 1959.

In the early 1970s, however, the discovery of natural gas in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, and the fact that this location could be more readily developed than other deposits found in eastern Kalimantan and the Natuna Islands, meant that for Jakarta Acehnese autonomy was now less tolerable. By 1976 armed resistance to the central government began under the banner of a Free Aceh Movement (GAM), led by Hasan di Tiro (1925–2010), a former Darul Islam leader who claimed descent from a hero of the 1873–1903 Aceh war against the Dutch. Jakarta responded with limited military force that crushed the small movement, but a decade later, when GAM reappeared with greater local support and funding from Libya and Iran, both the movement and the Jakarta response were far more extensive and brutal: estimates were of between 2,000 and 10,000 deaths, mostly civilian. In the mid-1990s, Jakarta claimed to have defeated GAM’s guerrilla forces, but resentment ran deep, and thousands of government troops remained posted in Aceh.

Suharto and East Timor

The military involvement of greatest significance during the New Order, however, was that in East Timor. The status of this small imperial remnant changed when a radically new, democratic government came to power in Lisbon in 1974, and Portugal soon decided to shed its colonial holdings. Local political parties quickly formed in favor of different visions of the future, the most prominent being the leftist Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (Fretilin), and the Timorese Popular Democratic Association (Apodeti), which sought integration with Indonesia as a semi-autonomous province. [Source: Library of Congress *]

By mid-1975, it appeared that Fretilin would be the likely winner in an upcoming general election, a prospect that brought internal political violence as well as escalating concern in Jakarta that a “communist” government (a designation generally considered inaccurate) might plant itself in the midst of the Indonesian nation. On November 28, 1975, Fretilin announced the independence of the Democratic Republic of East Timor (as of 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste), which it controlled. Driven by ideological fears rather than a desire for national expansion, Jakarta reversed its earlier avowed policy of noninterference and, with the implicit consent of Australia and the United States, on December 7 launched an assault on East Timor and soon began a brutal “pacification” requiring more than 30,000 ABRI troops. On July 15, 1976, East Timor, as Timor Timur, became the twenty-seventh province of Indonesia, and Jakarta began both exploiting the limited natural resources—coffee, sandalwood, marble, and prospects for vanilla and oil—and undertaking rebuilding and development programs. *

In the late 1980s, the province opened to foreign observers, and in 1990 ABRI finally captured the charismatic Fretilin leader José Alexandre “Xanana” Gusmão (born 1946), but widespread resentment of the occupation festered. Then, in November 1991, Indonesian soldiers fired on a crowd of demonstrators at the Santa Cruz Cemetery in Dili, the capital, and dramatic video footage of this event, in which between 50 and 250 civilians were killed, was distributed worldwide. The majority of Indonesians knew and cared little about East Timor and had not basically disagreed with New Order policies there, but the outside world felt very differently. Indonesia found itself increasingly pressured—for example, by the United States, the European Union (EU), the Roman Catholic Church, and the UN—to change course. Indonesia resisted, and, indeed, military pressures in East Timor tightened, and Muslim migration, especially from Java, increased rapidly in this largely Catholic and animist area. Not surprisingly, indigenous opposition increased, especially among a younger generation born in the 1970s. Jakarta did not recognize this response as either legitimate protest or nascent nationalism, which it had unwittingly done much to foster. *

Corruption under Suharto

Suharto and his regime were very corrupt. During his years in power, corruption, mismanagement, cronyism and nepotism were the norm. Suharto concealed his wealth with he help of Indonesia's lax financial disclose laws and used the national treasury as his own bank account to dispose loans to cronies and engage in shady business deals. Some rank him with the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos and Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko for amount of money he skimmed from the national treasury to fill his pockets and those of his friends and relatives. The whole system of government was described as a kleptocracy.

Maggie Farley wrote in the Los Angeles Times: Under Suharto the Indonesian economy was “a system ground in nepotism, sanctioned skimming and economic dislocation. This arrangement—where a Suharto family member of friend acts as the overlord of an industry, squeezing out all competition—has been relocated dozens f times throughout Indonesia. Corruption was rife at all levels of society, and Indonesian business culture came to revolve around kickbacks and bribes. The most obvious recipients of the new wealth were Suharto’s business associates and his family. They acquired huge business empires, along with prime government contracts.”

Through the 1970s and 1980s, Indonesia's pervasive corruption became a political issue that the New Order state could not entirely muffle. In January 1974, the visit of Japanese prime minister Tanaka Kakuei sparked rioting by students and urban poor in Jakarta. Ostensibly fueled by resentment of Japanese exploitation of Indonesia's economy, the so-called "Malari Affair" also expressed popular resentment against bureaucratic capitalists and their cukong associates. During the 1980s, the ties between Suharto and Chinese entrepreneur Liem Sioe Liong, one of the world's richest men, generated considerable controversy. The Liem business conglomerate was in a favored position to win lucrative government contracts at the expense of competitors lacking presidential ties. Import licenses were another generator of profits for well-connected businessmen. The licensing system had been established to reduce dependence on imports, but in fact it created a high-priced, protected sub-economy that amply rewarded license holders but reduced economic efficiency. By 1986 licenses were required for as many as 1,500 items. Foreign journals also published reports concerning the rapidly growing business interests of Suharto's children. [Source: Library of Congress]

John Gittings wrote in The Guardian, in the 1990s the “biggest source of dissent was a huge growth in cronyism and the blatant pursuit of financial gain by the Suharto family. Such nepotism was not essential for the Suharto regime — it reflected his adoption of a ruling style increasingly akin to that of a traditional Javanese king. The village in which he had been born was graced with a palace, and it was ordained that he should be buried in the nearby family mausoleum, echoing the royal custom of hilltop interment. [Source: John Gittings, The Guardian, January 27, 2008]

Oil Money and Corruption in Indonesia

The oil boom in the 1970s provided unprecedented opportunities for corruption. Pertamina was established in 1968 as a merger of Permina and two other firms. Its director, General Ibnu Sutowo, a hardy survivor of the transition from Guided Democracy to New Order who had been director of Permina, embarked on an ambitious investment program that included purchase of oil tankers and construction of P.T. Krakatau, a steel complex. In the mid-1970s, however, it was discovered that he had brought the firm to the brink of bankruptcy and accrued a debt totaling US$10 billion. In 1976 he was forced to resign, but his activities had severely damaged the credibility of Indonesian economic policy in the eyes of foreign creditors. *

The Pertamina affair revealed the problems of what Australian economist Richard Robison, in a 1978 article, called Indonesia's system of "bureaucratic capitalism": a system based on "patrimonial bureaucratic authority" in which powerful public figures, especially in the military, gained control of potentially lucrative offices and used them as personal fiefs or appanages, almost in the style of precolonial Javanese rulers, not only to build private economic empires but also to consolidate and enhance their political power. Because Indonesia lacked an indigenous class of entrepreneurs, large-scale enterprises were organized either through the action of the state (Pertamina, for example), by ethnic Chinese capitalists (known in Indonesia as cukong), or, quite often, a cooperative relationship of the two. *

Suharto’s Wealth

Suharto amassed of fortune while in office estimated at $4 billion in 1999 by Forbes magazine,$15 billion by the New York Times, and $45 billion by the Wahid government. In 2008, the United Nations and the World Bank put Suharto top of the world's most corrupt leaders, quoting a Transparency International estimate that he embezzled up to $25 billion. Transparency International estimated Suharto’s worth at between $15 to $30 billion.

At one time Forbes listed Suharto as the six wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $16 billion. This was not bad for a man who reportedly earned around $21,000 a year as president and resided in a modest bungalow in a Jakarta suburb and drove a 1964 Ford Galaxy after he first became president.

Suharto had a great deal of power over almost every sector of the economy and he had so many palace-like retreats that it was not that unusual just to stumble across them. Suharto reportedly began amassing wealth in 1966, before he became president, when he issued a decree to seize control of Sukarno-owned conglomerates worth $2 billion. Over the years his fortune grew along with those of his cronies Liem Sioe Liong of the Salim Group and Mohammed "Bob" Hassan.

Suharto said, "The fact is I don't have one cent of savings abroad, let alone hundreds of millions...the rumors are not true." He claimed his only assets were 19 hectares of land and $2.4 million in savings. Time reported that in July 1998, two months after Suharto reigned, $9 billion of Suharto's money was transferred from a Swiss bank to an Austrian bank.

Suharto's Residence (at 8 Jalan Cendana in Jakarta is a modest low-ceiling house, called Cendana, with a stuffed tiger in one room, family pictures on table and a glass cabinet filled with plates, trinkets and souvenirs. The garden is filled with caged myna birds that sing the Indonesian national anthem and say "Allah is great!" and is surround by a wall with doors that lead to the homes of his children. A frequent visitor to the house told the New York Times magazine, "The colors don't match, the sizes don't match—it’s like entering a curio shop. It's rather disconcerting to this very proper , dignified old man sitting there and look around the room and see all these nonsensical trinkets.”

Suharto and His Charitable Foundations

Charitable foundations set up by Suharto were conduits for money he acquired though corruption. The foundations helped build hospitals, schools and mosques, but they were also used as giant slush funds in which billions of dollars was laundered and divided out to business ventures involving his family and cronies. Much of Suharto shady financial dealings with in his foundation was legal at the time by a result of presidential decrees.

The foundation earned money from "voluntary donations" of 2.5 percent of the profits of state-owned banks and 2 percent of the income from people making over $40,000 a year. The foundations had huge stakes in Indonesian banks and was heavily invested in private companies.

Suharto used reforestation funds, earned from royalties in timber concession, to finance things like a $183 million airplane factory and a $102 million paper mill. Money that was to supposed to be in a fund for reforestation and fighting fires was diverted to the "national" car program. Investigations by the IMF found a "well endowed" reforestation fund but also found little of it had been spent reforestation. Most of it had used for cheap loans to plantation companies.

Suharto's Family's Wealth and Corruption

Suharto's children lived near to Suharto in homes which had gardens that joined their father’s through doors between the dividing walls. Four of his six children—daughters Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana and Siti Hediati Harijadi and sons Bambang Trihatmodjo and Hutomo Mandala Putra — accumulated vast wealth and control over Indonesian businesses and industries. Suharto's eldest daughter Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana was sometimes mentioned as his possible successor. [Source: John Colmey and David Liebhold, Time May 24, 1999]

A Time article, titled "The Family Firm," alleged Suharto and his children amassed billions of dollars but that much of it was lost in the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. The magazine alleged the family transferred some money from Switzerland to Austria and still had at least $15 billion in 1999. According to the article Suharto’s family became one of the richest in the world. At one time they reportedly had assets of $40 billion, half of Indonesia's gross national product, and about $73 billion passed through their hands between 1966 and 1999. Demonstrators at labor rallies sometimes display signs that read: "SUHARTO'S FAMILY OWNS EVERYTHING." One top industrialist told Newsweek, Suharto "sacrificed the nation's interests to those if his family.”

Suharto set up government-protected monopolies for his children, who also acted as middlemen in numerous government enterprises, taking 10 to 15 percent cuts but otherwise having little input in projects to build toll road, power stations and petrochemical plants. It was often said that easiest way to do business in Indonesia was to offer pieces of the action to a company controlled by one of Suharto's children. Under Suharto, Indonesia's 25 largest business were either run by Chinese tycoons with close ties to Suharto or Suharto's children. Suharto's wife Tien was often called "Madame Tien percent” after the cut she took in projects she was involved in.

In 1992, Suharto's family had major stakes in at least 679 companies, including television and radio stations, chemical factories, drug companies, toll roads, shopping malls, hotels. shipping lines and taxi companies. Their holdings were so large they were often referred to as Suharto Inc. Suharto's children owned the planes that flew pilgrims to Mecca for the hajj and fought over the national auto company and other possessions. The Bank Central Asia was one third owned by Suharto's eldest son and daughter. The Suharto family also reportedly owned 3.6 million hectares of Indonesian land, an area equal to Belgium. This included many of the swankiest resorts in Bali, 100,000 square of prime real estate in downtown Jakarta and 40 percent of East Timor.

The Suharto children also had a number of overseas holdings, including homes in the United States and business ventures in Uzbekistan, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Vanuatu. The also owned a $4 million hunting ranch in New Zealand and a share in $4 million yacht moored in Darwin, Australia.

Sudwikatmono, Suharto's half brother, had a monopoly on movie imports and theater chains. Suharto's youngest child and daughter, Sito Hutami Endang Adiningsih, known as "Mamiek" had an estimated worth of $30 million according to Time—a relatively modest amount compared to her other siblings. She had stakes in several of her siblings business ventures, owned a real estate company and received a favorable contract to clean up Jakarta Bay. She was reportedly was going to be paid $500 million for the job and then subcontracted the project to South Korea's Hyundai company for $100 million. The job was canceled in a crackdown on corruption.

Even Suharto's grandson, Ary Haryo Sigit, got a piece of the action: retail outlets, a share of water distribution company, an exclusive government license to sell fertilizer pellets and a monopoly on soup-making swallows nest. His plan to impose a tax on beer at resorts on Bali was scuttled after protests by brewers.

Suharto's Oldest Daughter and Son

Siti "Tutut" Hardijanti Rukmana is Suharto's oldest daughter and oldest child. She founded the Citra Lantoro Gung, a conglomerate with 90 companies with interests in toll roads, real estate, elevated trains, highways and power stations. She also owned a 16 percent stake Bank Central Asia, Indonesia's largest bank, and had a joint venture with Lucent Technologies. In 1999 Time estimated that her assets were worth $700 million. [Source: John Colmey and David Liebhold, Time May 24, 1999]

Tutu was also politically ambitious and served a Minister of Social Affair in her father's cabinet and at one time was regarded as Suharto's successor. The toll road to the airport reportedly earned her $40,000 a month while toll takers on the road earned $60 a month. At one time she owned a fleet of planes that included a Boeing 747, a DC-10, several 737s and BAC-111 that belonged to the Royal Squadron of Britain's Queen Elizabeth. She also owned a 12-room, $1 million house with a heated pool and tennis court near Boston and a house on London's Hyde Park worth much more. Known for her generosity, she flew her friends in her private jet or gave them first class tickets to Jakarta on commercial airliners.

Sigit, the oldest son, was a 16 percent shareholder in Bank Central Asia, a 10 percent owner of Mohammed "Bob" Hasan's Nusmaba Group, and a 40 percent owner of Tommy Suharto's Humpuss Group, and a partner in hundreds of other business ventures. He also ran an air freight company. In 1999, Time estimated his assets at $800 million.

Sigit also owned a $9 million home in an exclusive neighborhood in Los Angeles near his brother Bambang, two homes in the Hampstead area of London, worth $12 million each, and a home outside Geneva. He reportedly liked to spend his time playing video games and watching video tapes of Javanese shadow puppet plays while sitting on a Versace couch that no one else is allowed to sit on.

Sigit reportedly loved roulettes and baccarat and received the high roller treatment at casinos in London, Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Perth. A friend told Time he lost $3 million a night on several occasion and may have stacked up losses of $150 million during his gambling career. After one particularly bad losing streak, his father reportedly banned him from gambling abroad. Sigit then proceeded to lose $20 million in a call in cable television baccarat game.

Suharto's Second Oldest Son and Daughter

Suharto's second son Bambang Trihatmojdo was president and director and 38 percent owner of Bimantara Citra, one of Indonesia's largest conglomerates. It had 27 subsidiaries, over $1 billion in assets, holdings in telecommunications satellites, shipping, hotels, car production, natural gas and petrochemicals, banking and shopping malls. Bambang Trihatmojdo's also owned television stations, newspapers, radio outlets, and the company that owned the Grand Hyatt Jakarta hotel and the adjoining marble-draped shopping mall, the Plaza Indonesia, which boasted 170 stores including a Gucci and Bulgari. He also formed a joint venture with Hughes. Time estimated his worth in 1999 at $3 billion. [Source: John Colmey and David Liebhold, Time May 24, 1999]

Bambang Trihatmojdo had a $8 million penthouse in Singapore, a $12 million mansion in Los Angeles, two doors down from the house of Rod Stewert. One friend told Time he once cared about he poor but "I think he saw all the people around him getting rich and felt left out." In 1999, when a prohibition on his leaving the country was lifted, he moved with his family into a mansion in Bel Air, California, where he was occasionally spotted at the local bowling alley.

Suharto's second daughter Siti Hedijati Hariyadi, known as "Titiek," owned a finance company, real estate and telecommunications assets. She had an estimated worth of $75 million in 1999 and was married to Army Lt. Gen. Prabowo Subianto, who commanded the army's special forces and is from one of Indonesia's richest banking families. She formed a joint venture with General Electric and had a home on London's Grosvenor Square. She was reportedly very fond of large gemstones, hated dogs and was a heavy smoker. According to Time she slept in one room while her husband slept in another room with his German shepherds.

Suharto's Youngest Son "Tommy"

Suharto's youngest son Hutomo ("Tommy") Mandala Putra became the symbol of the excess of the Suharto era. Reportedly Suharto's favorite, he was a playboy and shady dealer convicted jailed on corruption and murder charges after Suharto was ousted. Tommy controlled a business empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars that included Indonesia’s leading private airline, Semapti Air, a monopoly on Indonesia's clove trade, and a 60 percent stake in the Humpus Group, a conglomerate with 60 subsidiaries. He also had holding in the automobile industry, shipping, oil and gas exploration and transportation. He forced villagers off their land in Bali so he could build a lavish resort there and also had a ranch in New Zealand, and a 75 percent stake in an 18-hole golf course and 22 luxury apartments in Ascot, England. In 1999, Time estimated his net worth at $800 million.

Tommy reportedly loved gambling and thought nothing of losing $1 million is a single night out. He often flew off to Europe's casinos in his private plane with large amounts of cash and deposited what he had left in Singapore on his way home. One business partner told Time, "Tommy loves money. And he always wanted it up front."

Tommy owned 70 percent of the Indonesian company that worked with South Korea's Kia Motors to produce Indonesia's controversial national car (See Automobile Industry). He was also a big fan of Formula One racing and claimed he was a race car driver (he once raced stocks cars with Marlboro as his sponsor). In the early 1990s, he had an international-class car race track built at a cost of $50 million Tommy formed a group that bought Lambroghini, the Italian sports car maker, for $40 million. He became a 60 percent shareholder in Lamborghini before Audi bought the company for around $100 million when Tommy was desperately in need of cash to bail out his other business concerns.

Tommy nearly singlehandedly killed the once lucrative glove industry by monopolizing it. In 1990, the clove industry was cornered by speculators, working with Tommy. A monopoly was created that brought a windfall of commissions and service fees to Tommy and his associates and more money for farmers at first. But as happens in a classic monopoly, farmers anxious to make more money produced more cloves, which in turn led to over production and a collapse of clove prices. Many farmers went bankrupt. They left their crops unharvested because the money they paid workers to pick them was more than money they could earn from the harvest. By 1996, things had gotten so out of hand that Tommy told clove farmer to burn half their crop to boost collapsed prices. The ploy didn't work and Tommy was eventually bailed out with government credits totalling $350 million.

Tommy served four years in prison for hiring a hitman to assassinate the judge who had convicted him of corruption. See Separate Article on Suharto’s Ouster.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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