OUSTER OF SUHARTO
Coinciding with Suharto health and family problems in the late 1990s were demands by students and the middle class for more participation in the government. Before the Asian economic crisis in 1997-98 things were beginning to unravel for Suharto. The economic crisis created an atmosphere in which the process could unfold and be carried to fruition. One Western diplomat told National Geographic that he regarded the upheaval in Indonesia in the late 1990s as an “extraordinary trauma and a clashing of mental tectonic plates.” “Reformasi” was the name of the democratic reform movement that ultimately ousted Suharto.
In 1997-98 Indonesia confronted economic collapse in the wake of a wider Asian financial crisis. The government’s response was slow and inadequate, pleasing neither liberals nor nationalist conservatives. Over an eight-month period, the value of the rupiah fell 70 percent. Over the course of a year, the economy as a whole shrank nearly 14 percent, 40 percent of the nation’s businesses went bankrupt, per capita income fell an estimated 40 percent, and the number of people living in poverty catapulted, by some accounts, to as much as 40 percent of the population. [Source: Library of Congress *]
By March 1998, when Suharto and his chosen running mate, Habibie, became president and vice president, respectively, it was clear that a line had been crossed. Public calls for reform turned angry, and within weeks bitterly antigovernment, anti-Suharto student demonstrations spilled out of campuses across the nation. On May 12, at Trisakti University in Jakarta, members of the police force, then under ABRI command, fired on demonstrating students, killing four (and two bystanders) and wounding at least 20 others. This event, which created instant martyrs and removed any lingering hesitancy for a broad spectrum of Indonesians, launched several days of horrific violence, which ABRI could not or would not control. In Indonesia as a whole, an estimated 2,400 people are said to have died; as much as US$1 billion in property was damaged; and tens of thousands of foreign residents and Indonesian Chinese fled the country. *
Pressured by the nationwide protests, Suharto resigned in May 1998, having finally lost the confidence of even his closest associates and military clique. The government that had come to power promising stability and economic growth now demonstrably could deliver neither, and its leader was precipitously abandoned. In a simple ceremony held on May 21 at 9:00 a.m., Suharto resigned, bringing a symbolic end to the now jaded and discredited New Order leadership. John Gittings wrote in The Guardian, “After a year's silence, the former president emerged to deny claims he had amassed a fortune, filing a suit against Time magazine for publishing detailed allegations. There were suggestions he had threatened to implicate other members of the Jakarta elite if the investigation proved too vigorous.”
See Separate Article 1997-98 ASIAN FINANCIAL CRISIS IN INDONESIA
Decline of Suharto’s New Order
The New Order probably reached the peak of its powers in the mid- to late 1980s. The clear success of its agricultural strategy, achieving self-sufficiency in rice in 1985, and its policies in such difficult fields as family planning—Indonesia’s birthrate dropped exceptionally rapidly from 5.5 percent to 3.3 percent annually between 1967 and 1987—earned it international admiration. Economic progress for the middle and lower classes had seemed to balance any domestic discontent. In retrospect, however, signs of serious weakness were discernible by about the same time. Although there had always been a certain level of public and private dissension under New Order rule, by the early 1990s it had grown stronger, and the government appeared increasingly unable to finesse this opposition with force (veiled or otherwise) or cooptation. In addition, intense international disapproval, particularly over East Timor, proved increasingly difficult to deflect. [Source: Library of Congress *]
Several important shifts had taken place, which in turn altered the New Order in fundamental ways. One was international: the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of the Cold War both provided New Order leaders with frightening examples of political upheaval and religious and ethnic conflict following in the wake of a relaxation of centralized power, and these events also left Indonesia more vulnerable to pressures from the West. An important result was a new uncertainty in domestic policy, for example, toward public criticism, Islam, and ethnic and religious conflict. In the military, opinions grew more varied, many of them frankly disapproving of certain government policies, including those toward the armed services. A second important change took place as the advice of “technocrats” responsible for the successfully cautious economic strategizing of the 1970s and 1980s began to give way to that of “technicians” such as Suharto protégé Bacharuddin J. (B. J.) Habibie (born 1936), who became a technology czar favoring huge, risky expenditures in high-technology research and production, for example by attempting to construct an indigenous aeronautics industry. *
Some observers detected a third area of change in the attitude of Suharto himself. He grew more fearful of opposition and less tolerant of criticism, careless in regard to the multiplying financial excesses of associates and his own children, and increasingly insensitive to pressures to arrange a peaceful transition of power to new leadership. And, by the late 1990s, he seemed to lose the sense of propriety he had professed earlier. Circumventing all normal procedures, Suharto had himself appointed a five- star general, a rank previously accorded only the great revolutionary leader Sudirman (1916–50) and his successor, Nasution. Further, he not only ignored his own earlier advice against running for a seventh term but also placed daughter Tutut, son-in-law General Prabowo Subianto (born 1952, and married at the time to Suharto’s second daughter, Siti Hediati Hariyadi—known as Titiek, born 1959), and a host of individuals close to the family in important civilian and military positions. These and other transgressions lost Suharto and many of those around him the trust of even his most loyal supporters, civilian as well as military. *
The changes of greatest long-term significance, however, may have been social and cultural. New Order architects had planned on controlling the nation’s politics and transforming its economy, but they had given comparatively little consideration to how, if they succeeded, society—their own generation’s and their children’s—might change as a result. If economic improvement expanded the middle classes and produced an improved standard of living, for example, would these Indonesians begin to acquire new outlooks and expectations, new values? What might be the cultural results of much greater openness to the outside, especially the Western, world? Although the New Order became infamous for efforts to inculcate a conservative, nationalist Pancasila social ideology, and to promote a homogenized, vaguely national culture, these endeavors were far from successful. Despite a penchant for banning the works of those considered to be influenced by communism (author Pramudya Ananta Tur became the world-famous example) and an undisguised distaste for “low,” popular culture (a high government official once disparaged dangdut, a new and wildly popular music style blending modern Western, Indian, Islamic, and indigenous influences, as “dog-shit” music), the New Order’s leaders turned a comparatively blind eye to cultural developments and seemingly had little idea what such changes might reflect of shifting social values. *
Indonesianist Barbara Hatley has pointed to “a vigorous process of reinterpretation” of tradition during the New Order period, as well as new reflections of the present. For example, in a series of four novels about the lives of young, urban, middle-class Indonesians in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Yudhistira Ardhi Nugraha (born 1954) satirized the world of their pompous, hypocritical parents, civilian as well as military. Playwright Nobertus “Nano” Riantiarno (born 1949) used mocking language and absurdist humor to make fun of the world of politicians and government bureaucrats in his 1985 Cockroach Opera, which was finally banned five years later. By the late 1980s, many of the older generation had begun to question the implicit bargain they had struck with the New Order; their children, who had little or no memory of the Sukarno period or the dark days of the mid-1960s, merely saw the limitations and injustices around them and resisted, often with humor and cynicism. *
In April 1996,Suharto's wife, of 49 years, Raden Ayu Siti Hartinah, widely known as Ibu Tien, died suddenly while Suharto was sportsfishing. There were rumors that she died trying to break up a gun fight between two of her children. Suharto was greatly distressed. Two months later Suharto flew to Germany for treatment for kidney and heart problems. Tien reportedly wanted Suharto to resign while the going was still good but according to some insiders he hung for the sake of his children, so their businesses would survive.
Reporting from Ibu Tien’s funeral Susan Berfield and Keith Loveard wrote in Asiaweek:” President Suharto sat cross-legged on the floor beside the body of his wife, Siti Hartinah. His head was bowed, his face ashen; he seemed almost unaware of the mourners who filed through his home on April 28, briefly pressing his hands as they passed. Ibu [mother] Tien, as the 72-year-old first lady was known, had died suddenly in the early morning of a heart attack thought to have been brought on by diabetes. She had been rushed to a nearby army hospital after she complained of breathing difficulties, but doctors could not save her.” [Source: Susan Berfield and Keith Loveard, Asiaweek, April 1996]
“Tien had been a quiet but powerful force in building the family's political and economic empire after Suharto assumed power in 1966. She was the president's closest confidant. And, in his first days without her, he seemed distraught. For some time now, people have been asking how much longer Suharto will rule, and who will succeed him. The first lady's death has naturally intensified the speculation about the 74-year-old president's plans. “ [Ibid]
After his wife's death, Suharto rose before dawn to recite Muslim prayers and gained weight from overeating. He also suffered from phlebitis, kidney ailments and depression and was unable to exert much control over the greed of his children. Insiders said Suharto was surrounded by ministers he didn't trust and yes men who didn't watch his back or keep an antenna up for public sentiments.
Openness Campaign in Indonesia in the Mid-1900s
As part of an openness campaign in 1995, Suharto relaxed restrictions on the press, freed some political prisoners, replaced generals in high government positions with civilians and implementing more programs to help the poor. Three political prisoners held since 1965 were released and 1.4 million former prisoners would regain "their long-suspended civil rights." The three prisoners were former aides of Sukarno: former foreign minister Subandrio (81 in 1995), one time air force commander Omar Dhani (71), and senior intelligent officer Soetarto (77). Indonesia's leading union activist, Muchtar Pkapahan, was released from jail on May 19, 1995. "Since my release," he told Time in August 1995, the military has stopped intervening in labor disputes. The army is pulling back."
The openness campaign ended when three news magazines critical of the government were closed down. But that time cracks in the dike were beginning to widen. John Gittings wrote in The Guardian, “Grass-roots grumblings increased along with disparity of wealth. The political opposition, particularly the PDI, grew in stature and popularity. So much so that in 1996 the government helped engineer a split in the PDI, resulting in its popular leader Megawati Sukarnoputri (Sukarno’s daughter) being dumped. PDI supporters rioted in Jakarta, but it was only a taste of things to come. An ageing Suharto made noises about retirement, but without an obvious successor (and with the local and international business community so used to Indonesia’s brand of crony capitalism) the government re―affirmed his leadership. [Source: John Gittings, The Guardian, January 27, 2008]
Megawati and Anti-Suharto Riots in 1996
In the mid-1990s, Megawati Sukarnopurti—Sukarno's eldest daughter—became a powerful opposition figure, so much so that the Suharto government felt threatened and ousted her. In August 1996, she was stripped of her leadership in the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI)— one of the two state-approved parties— and thugs ousted her supporters from the party headquarters. Afterwards large numbers of students and protestors took to the streets to protest the move and overnight Megawati became the rallying point of the democratic movement against Suharto and symbol of oppression for Indonesia's have nots. Five people were killed and more than a 100 were injure in the violence.
Describing the riots in Jakarta, Ron Moreau wrote in Time, "The first wave of attacks came from about 100 young thugs, bused in for the job by the Indonesian government. Early Saturday morning, they began hurling rocks at supporters of Megawati...Then members of a rival faction opposed to Megawati joined in, followed by the heavy assault team: hundred of riot police, and soldiers in green camouflage."
"Armed with rattan canes, wooden truncheons and electric cattle prods, they stormed PDI headquarters. After breaking through the iron gate, they set upon about 150 Megawati supporters inside the courtyard, beating them with sticks." When the tide began to turn in the favor of Megawati' supporters, "hundreds of army troops emerged from the side streets, and from behind the police lines. They moved into the crowd, flailing canes and sticks at anybody they could reach.”
The government banned meetings of Megawati's supporters and encouraged divisions within the PDI. Megawati's "illegal" branch of the PDI was allowed to hold a congress in Bali in November 1998.
Anti-Suharto Movement, 1997- 98 Asian Financial Crisis and Elections in 1998
In the 1997 Asian currency crisis spilled over into Indonesia, causing the country’s economy to collapse. According to Lonely Planet: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) pledged financial backing in return for reforms such as the abolition of government subsidies on food and fuel, the deregulation of monopolies and the abandonment of grandiose government-sponsored industries, many of which were also controlled by ‘Suharto Family Inc’. [Source: Lonely Planet ++]
“Rising prices resulted in sporadic riots as the people, already hard hit by the monetary crisis, looted shops owned by the minority ethnic Chinese, a significant business class that became the scapegoat for this sudden loss of faith in the economy. Foreign debt and inflation continued to skyrocket, many banks collapsed, companies faced bankruptcy and millions lost their jobs. The swiftness and scope of the human tragedy is difficult to comprehend. Substantial progress in reducing poverty – for so long the pride and excuse of authoritarian government – was rapidly reversed. In just one year the number of Indonesians living below the poverty line jumped from 20 million to 100 million (nearly 50 percent of the populace). ++
“At the same time, Suharto was up for re-election. This was a foregone conclusion but, as never before, critics from the Islamic parties, opposition groups and especially student demonstrators demanded that he step down. Suharto’s re-election in February 1998 seemed to at least promise political certainty, and the government moved towards fulfilling IMF demands. The rupiah stabilised but demands for political reform continued as students demonstrated across the country. Initially, these demonstrations were confined to campuses, but in April violent rioting erupted in the streets of Medan, then other cities. Adding to the hardship and furthering unrest, the government announced fuel and electricity price rises, as demanded by the IMF.
See Separate Article 1997-98 ASIAN FINANCIAL CRISIS IN INDONESIA.
Anti-Suharto Riots After the 1997- 98 Asian Financial Crisis
In April 1998, student who suddenly faced poor job prospects after the economic meltdown began staging protest to demand the resignation of Suharto. In early May 1998, the government reduced subsidies, as the IMF required, and the price of gasoline shot up 71 percent. People responded by rioting in the streets. Shopping malls were looted and set on fire, toll roads were commandeered, car dealerships were destroyed. Students calling for Suharto to resign signed a petition with bloody thumb prints. Intellectuals and students called for democracy and the resignation of Suharto.
People were frustrated over food shortages, massive lay-offs, and the high price off food, and bus fares. Much of the violence was directed at businesses with ties to Suharto and ethnic Chinese. Rioters set on fire a ministry led by Suharto's daughter, attacked branches of banks owned by three Suharto children, and looted supermarkets and warehouses owned by Suharto's youngest son Tommy.
Students wore brightly colored jackets of red, blue, green, and purple, each representing different schools. The took aim at corruption, cronyism and nepotism and shouted "Reformsi! Reformsi!" and "Corupsi! Corupsi!" Banners were hung that read SUHARTO SUCKS THE PEOPLE'S BLOOD and SUHARTO MUST BE THROWN OUT LIKE A DOG. Throughout the turmoil the army reiterated its support for the government. Tanks and army trucks appeared on the streets, but demands for Suharto’s resignation increased.
When journalist Richard Lloyd Parry asked an Indonesian carpenter named Jamari what he fears. The man answered: "We are afraid that 1965 will happen again. We're afraid that if we speak out, somebody will come and take us away during the night, and perhaps they will kill us." An abortive coup in 1965 led to a right-wing counter-coup and the rise of Suharto.
Shooting of Students
The key moment in Suharto's downfall was the killing of four students and the injuring of three others on May 12 when police opened fired from a highway overpass at protestors at a peaceful demonstration into front of the gate of Trisaki University in Jakarta. Suharto was out of the country at the time, attending a conference in Cairo
According to some reports soldiers initially used rubber bullets and switched to live ammunition before the four students were shot dead. A Western diplomat told the Washington Post, "It was not a sudden burst of fire. It was a slow deliberate fire, for over an hour, and that can be proven...You're talking about targeting—that counts for the high number of kills for the number of wounded."
One student, 21-year-old Henry Hartanto was killed by a bullet in the back when he paused briefly to wash tear gas from his face with water from a plastic bottle. Another student, 20-year-old Hneriawan, was shot through the back and the neck and sat down and died by the university flag pole. A third student, 21-year-old Hafidhin Royan wasn't even involved in the protests. He came to the university that day to finish assignments for an engineering class before heading home for summer break. He was shot in the head above the ear.
Riots After the Shooting of the Students
After the students were killed Jakarta erupted in three days of rioting and looting. Over 6000 buildings in the city were damaged or destroyed and an estimated 1200 people died, most in fires set by looters. Law and order collapsed. The army was often ineffectual as soldiers looked on, trying to portray the army as the people’s ally.
On May 13, funerals were held for the students that had been shot. Afterward thousands of protestors poured out of Jakarta's slums and converged on the commercial district: rioting, looting department stores and supermarkets and attacking banks, business and enterprises associated with Suharto, his families and his cronies. Also hard hit were the Chinese, whose businesses were looted and destroyed.
Students set up barricades and lit fires on hijacked trucks. Soldiers rappeled from helicopters but were outnumbered. Mobs ruled the streets of Jakarta and began venting their anger at the Chinese. There were disturbing accounts of rape and murder. In one instance 15 Chinese were burned alive in a torched night club because they were afraid to go outside. In another case Chinese girls were gang raped in front of their mother by men with military style haircuts.
In the three days of rioting that following the shooting deaths of the students, 2,000 cars, trucks and motorcycles were destroyed and $1 billion in damages was caused in Jakarta alone. Over 500 bank branches were attacked and 30 of 50 Hero supermarkets were looted while other food chains closed down. On May 15, than 200 people were burned death in a shopping mall in Borneo that was attacked and set on fire by rioters. Most of the dead were looters. Dozens of others died in three other shopping mall fires.
According to Lonely Planet: “The riots subsided but anti-Suharto demonstrations increased while the army threatened to shoot on sight. The country looked on, fearing massive bloodshed. Still Suharto clung to the “presidency, but with the writing on the wall, some of his own ministers called for his resignation.”
Violence Against the Chinese During the Anti-Suharto Period
During the Asian economic crisis in 1997-1998 and through the period before and after Suharto’s resignation in May 1998 and the selection of a new president in June 1999, ethnic Chinese were the targets of violence all across Indonesia. Ethnic Chinese women and girls as young as 10 were raped during looting of Chinese neighborhoods by organized gangs. Some of the victims were gang raped in front of their parents and then set on fire and killed."Some of the attacker said, 'You must be red because you are Chinese and a non-Muslim," one woman told the New York Times and added that many women committed suicide afterwards rather than lose face.
Many of the riots were sparked by resentment towards the Chinese for their wealth. Because ethnic Chinese control so much of the Indonesian economy, many Indonesians blamed them for the crisis and took out their anger by looting Chinese-owned shops, shouting anti-Chinese slogans and attacking Chinese. The violence was often triggered by rumors and small things. One spate of violence began after a Chinese man complained about the noise made by drummers during a Muslim feast day.
In January 1998, people in eastern Java broke into Chinese-owned stores with crow bars and looted rice, cooking oil and other staples. The looters accused the Chinese of price gauging, although prices they charged were the same as those charged by Muslim merchants. One sympathizer told the Independent. "The Chinese are uptight and greedy. I support what happened, and it will happen again if the prices keep going up.”
According to Lonely Planet: “Mounting evidence pointed to General Prabowo, Suharto’s son-in-law, as having used military goon squads to spearhead attacks on Chinese shops and Chinese women. He did this to create a situation where Suharto could once more ‘save the nation’. However, Prabowo’s plan backfired and, following Suharto’s fall, he was dismissed from the army and sent into exile.”
Descriptions of Attacks Against the Chinese
Much of the violence was not a spontaneous venting of revenge but a planned campaign of terror. Witnesses often reported that violence began when thugs, brought in by truck, began shouting anti-Chinese and pro-Muslim slogans like "Destroy the Chinese," "I love Muslims," and "Money hung Chinese fools," outside Chinese-owned businesses and encouraging local people to join them. One man told Time, "Everyone wanted to get in a kick or a cut; it was a badge of pride to have taken part.”
Describing an attack on Chinese in February 1998 in western Java, Ron Maroau wrote in Newsweek, "The first warning came in a phone call from school. Don't send your daughter today...Rumors were swirling...angry Muslims would attack Chinese-owned stores after noon prayers at a local mosque."
"Just before noon, a crowd of at least 20 angry young men began heaving rocks into the shop. Wielding knives, scythes and iron bars, they stormed inside, knocking over displays of rice, sugar, soybeans and cooking oil. They robbed the cash drawer, stole two tons of rice, started a fire...shouting "Kill the Chinese." The owner was chased down the street by an angry mob and found safety in a shop owned by a non-Chinese Indonesian friend.”
Describing violence against the Chinese in Sumatra in September 1998, David Liehold wrote in Time, "The trouble began with a rumor...word had got around that a Malay man had been killed by an ethnic Chinese following a minor traffic accident. Within hours mobs of armed men were rampaging through the streets, setting fire to mostly Chinese-owned houses and shops, By sunrise...more than 400 buildings had been damaged or destroyed, and the Chinese fled to neighboring towns.
Events Before Suharto Resigns
On May 15, when the riots spiraled out of control, Suharto returned home from Cairo, where he had told Indonesians that "it would not be a problem" if he would become a “pandito”, or sage. This was viewed as signal that he was willing to resign. Among the first things he did after returning to Indonesia was make the "difficult decision" to raise the prices of gasoline, electricity and bus and train tickets by around 70 percent to make the IMF happy. He also threatened to impose martial law if the chaos continued. On May 16, Suharto tried reshuffling his cabinets, but none of the people he asked to take the new positions was willing to serve. He thought about imposing martial law but generals made it clear they wouldn't carry it out. Even his fortunetellers told him it was time to go.
On May 18, students were allowed into the Parliament building by the government in an effort to placate them. The students took over the building. They also gathered outside, creating a carnival atmospheres with people climbing on the roof and unfurling banners calling for Suharto to resign and makeshift musicians banging out rhythms on bottles and cans. Students created a wooden effigy of Suharto with a dollar bill pasted across his eyes. A sign above his head said "material President".
Describing the scene on May 19, Mark Landler wrote in the New York Times, "Hundreds of student protesters barged into the main chamber of the House of Representatives, filling up seats and galleries and conducting a sort of spontaneous shadow government. One young man took the podium to offer a dead-pan impersonation of Gen. Wiranto, the Defense Minister....Soldiers did not venture into the sprawling complex, which gave the students free rein and turned Parliament into an Indonesian version of Fort Lauderdale Fla. during spring break.”
Parliament Demands Suharto's Resignation
On May 18, while the students occupied the Parliament building, Assembly Speaker Harmonoko, who had before been known as a Suharto loyalist, announced that he and other parliament members no longer supported him and called for Suharto "to step down, for the sake of unity and integrity of the nation." Suharto refused. At this point he still had the support of the military.
Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times, "It was an extraordinary moment. The obedient legislature that Mr. Suharto had created expressly to give legitimacy to his one-man rule— a parliament that never questioned his orders—turned the Machinery of government against him." A Western diplomat told the New York Times, "They have trapped him. Everything Suharto has ever done, he has done by the letter of the Constitution. He mentions the Constitution in almost every speech. Now his only option is to go outside the Constitution.
On May 20, Harmoko and other parliamentary leaders again called for Suharto to reign. Suharto again refused. He announced he would hold new elections and not run for president. He then reached out to intellectuals for support but was rejected by almost everyone he asked. At this juncture, Suharto had been abandoned by hand-picked legislature and moderate intellectuals. Now even his close fiends and vice president had reportedly had enough and the only thing propping him up was the military when Harmoko gave Suharto an ultimum: resign or face a special parliamentary session that demand his ouster.
Military Withdraws Its Support of Suharto
On May 21, Vice President Habibie gave Suharto a letter of resignation signed by half of his cabinet. Although several prominent Indonesians had come to Suharto's home pleading with him to resign Suharto refused to do so. In the evening, Gen. Wiranto, who Suharto had appointed as Defense Minister only a few months before, met with Suharto and told him the military could no longer support him. The two men discussed Suharto's option. Suharto finally gave in and said that he would resign if he was given assurances that his family and wealth would be protected.
In the end it was the military that made the decision that Suharto was through. They set up a military committee to study reforms that announced that real elections should be held in the year 2000 and that Suharto and his family should turn their wealth over to the state. High-ranking generals in the military were the ones that gave the okay for students to to be let into Parliament. Marzuki Darusman, a human rights activist told Newsweek, the generals "decided to allow the students to keep the pressure on Suharto in the public protests and to activate a constitutional and legislative process that would remove him from office."
Suharto resigned on May, 21, 1998. He called important aides and generals to his house and went before the nation on television with his hands visibly shaking and announced his resignation in a short prepared speech. Suharto said, "I have decided to hereby declare that I withdraw from my position as the president of the Republic of Indonesia...I'll say thank you very much for your support and I am sorry for my mistakes and shortcomings. I hope the Indonesian country will live forever." Upon the announcement, students occupying the Parliament building let out whoops of joy, danced in the fountains and partied for three days while soldiers played cards in the shade.
The Jakarta Post reported: “Time stood still for a moment on the morning of May 21, 1998. Millions of hearts skipped a beat upon hearing the announcement on television. President Soeharto was stepping down from power. Disbelief was followed by amazement as pictures appeared of a hastily conducted ceremony at Merdeka Palace. A tired-looking Soeharto stepped aside in favor of a tense-looking B.J. Habibie. Many felt the fall was coming, but one is never prepared for such an historical moment. [Source: Jakarta Post, May 23, 2005]
Many ordinary Javanese believed that end for Suharto began when his wife died. As greedy as some accused her of being was she was able to keep the Suharto clan under tight reins. After her death, the greed of Suharto's children and cronies seemed boundless and Suharto did little to reign them in. Suharto's position was still secure until the Asian Financial Crisis occurred, when Suharto failed to hold up his end of the bargain by provided economic growth and stability in return for support for his unquestioned power.
In the end it was ironic that a military man like Suharto who spent much of his career battling Communism was toppled by forces unleashed by capitalism. After the economy went into a tailspin, it wasn't too late for Suharto if he had show leadership and willingness to implement reforms. Instead he came off as out of touch and his staunchest supporters in the government and military decided he had to go.
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