Indonesia reconsiders Suharto

Ever since Suharto was hospitalized, villagers from the former leader's home in central Java have been praying for his speedy recovery. Here, reverence for the former leader is high. The village headman says that's because the lives of many Indonesians improved greatly under Suharto's 32-year rule. �Suharto has done good deeds,� says the village headman, �and we must not create any problems for him. Let us remember the good that he's done for this country and forget about the bad. There's no use digging up the past and continuing to do so brings this country nowhere.� Villagers here say that under Suharto, fuel, rice, and other basic goods were cheaper and that generally life was better. It's a view shared by many Indonesians, says this man, a professor of political science from Ohio State University, �What you need is 7-9% economic growth a year and what that does is create jobs, and that's the basis for a healthy economy and that's what Suharto and that's where most of his support comes from that we think about today, what people remember today in a positive way. That's what they remember: jobs.� Suharto's illness has captivated the country. Indonesian television stations have been giving live reports on Suharto's health down to the details of his hourly blood pressure readings. The daily papers have been splashed with full page photographs of Suharto hooked up t o all sorts of medical equipment surrounded by grief stricken family members. Suharto's doctors have become celebrities overnight as they battle to save him. This man is an Indonesian scholar, �Maybe this is a way to trigger people's empathy and sympathy and to forgive him and shelve all the court cases against him.� A civil case against Suharto seeks damages of a billion and a half dollars for money he allegedly embezzled from the nation. Suharto is also accused of being responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 in East Timor, a full third of its population when Indonesian occupied the former Portuguese colony. The scholar says Suharto's crimes go back even further when Suharto established his New Order rule across the sprawling archipelago, �until we remember that he came to power in '65 over the dead bodies of half a million to two million Indonesians.� But Suharto's past is something that few care to bring up as he lay on his sickbed. The hospital where Suharto is undergoing treatment has become a kind of pilgrimage for Suharto's most ardent and elite supporters. They include members of Suharto's Gold Car Party. Two of Suharto's contemporaries, Singapore's former Prime Minister and Malaysia's leader also dropped by briefly. After visiting, the Malaysian leader said Suharto was not being given the respect he deserved. Even Suharto's old enemies came to visit him, including Indonesia's fourth president. He says he prayed for Suharto and says he does not hold any grudges with him anymore, �Three times I was tried to be murdered by Suharto so I have the most grudge, but I think it's not healthy so I'm in good relationships with him.� But he says personal forgiveness to a dying man is one thing. He says Suharto's crimes against the public are too many and that he must still face charges in court. This man is the lead prosecutor in the corruption case against Suharto and his family, �First we have to discover what is his wealth and what is his wealth and after that we can recover it.� but going after Suharto's wealth is difficult, it's changed hands many times and remains hidden in shell companies overseas. Transparency International ranks Suharto as the world's most corrupt leader and estimates he stole some $15-34 billion dollars. State prosecutor says since Suharto's illness, there's been mounting pressure to dismiss the corruption charges against him, �There is no legal basis to grant this proposal, to agree with this proposal.� The Indonesian government tried to negotiate a settlement with the family when Suharto verged on dying last week but Suharto's family refused to meet them. Doctors say his condition has improved and that he might be able to return to his home, but they also said his health is critical and could suffer a relapse, leaving many pessimistic that Suharto will ever stand trial.