Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pardon me Soeharto or Suharto

First let me say I have not determined the ideal spelling – Soeharto or Suharto. Even Indonesia’s English language media can’t agree. I guess I’ll stick with the oe version I’m used to. But I’m really choking on the death bed calls to pardon the butcher.

To the surprise of many observers, the anti-corruption Prosperous Justice Party has renewed calls for his pardon. Their justification to forgive the former dictator is for the sake of national reconciliation.

They go on to claim he is one of the country's great leaders. Well given the number of leaders they have had that is a pretty empty call, Soeharto ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for 32 years until popular protests forced him out in 1998. Before him was Sukarno who he overthrew then after him a handful of time servers until the current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

One article in the Jakarta Post, by Harry Bhaskara - Opportunity lost in treating Soeharto right takes the opposite view, arguing that if the butcher is pardoned Indonesians will be left without healing answers.

“What a paradox! On one side, he is getting the best health treatment possible in the country, the care and respect of family members, friends and other leaders, while on the other side, this plea for a pardon.

A pardon for what? What has he done?

Was he responsible for the mass murder in the 1960s in which at least half a million people were killed and hundreds of thousands of others were tortured, raped, or jailed without trial? It's not clear.

Did he steal money from the people? It's not clear.

Should he be held accountable for numerous brutalities during his rule? It's not clear as there often were no trials held at the time. If there were, he has always had the power to influence any court proceedings.

Was he responsible for the killing of criminals in the 1980s? Yes, he admitted it in his book Soeharto, My Thoughts, Words and Deeds and yet still there was no trial.”

It is not now a matter of punishment, it is about providing answers to the many who have suffered or lost family and friends during his regime. On the other hand his family, who have enriched themselves through the regime, must face trial and punishment.

To pardon Soeharto now could well have the effect of burying key evidence in prosecuting his family. Even in death all the issues must be legally canvassed, showing the same compassion as the dictator showed for his victims to ensure others involved are revealed.


D.K. Raed said...

To me, it was always Suharto, but you know how provincial we 'mericats (*) are. No matter how it's spelled, it still equals criminal. A pardon for what, indeed. That's what hearings are for! Bring all the evidence out in public & let the truth filter through. BTW, I take some heart that even many years after a dictator steps down, he could still be brought to justice, preferably by his own people, but if not, then the ICC.

(*) 'mericats is a new word I just learned that the local indians used in reference to U.S. in the 1800's.

Cartledge said...

I thought 'mericats might have been coined by those 50s hep cats, much better the injuns get the points. But you do have me a bit jealous there, finding language secrets is a real treat.

The Suharto spelling makes a difference researching. Finding info from Indon media is also fraught with difficulty. These publishers are so recycle conscious they have a new story pasted on the old story url by the next day.
Sometimes I think the hunt is much more fun than the kill.

enigma4ever said...

I believe in Karmic Justice I guess..but a pardon????omg...unreal..

( Karmic Justice ? well, what kind of care is he getting_ I don't imagine that ALL his caregivers have empty memories....he hurt so many....but what I mean is that I imagine he will have a painful long illness, just tonight they are saying he is "dying again"they even reported it that way on on the news- 6-6 said well, how many times can he die ? )

thanks for your great reporting...

Cartledge said...

Thanks enigma. Apart from my own feelings of outrage I'm just trying to keep that media research channel open.