Editorial: Justice Catches Up, Slowly

AUGUST 11, 2015

[Updated at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015, with minor edits throughout]

The final and binding ruling by the Supreme Court against the Supersemar Foundation led by former president Suharto is historic and crucial because it is the first legal decision against the former dictator and it serves as a legal justification of how corrupt the regime he led was.

The foundation under Suharto's decree received part of the profits of state-owned banks from 1976 until he was unseated in 1998. We can only imagine how much money the foundation collected during this period. The money was supposed to help poor families with scholarships. Instead, the money went to those around him.

While the Rp 4.4 trillion ($323 million) fine ordered by the court to the foundation seems peanuts for a wealthy family, the ruling also contained a more crucial element. Suharto, who had been untouchable until he died and remained so up to this court decision, was declared guilty of misusing the state's money allocated to the foundation.

This means the ruling can become an entry point for the state to go after other corruption cases involving the general and his cronies while unveiling other misconduct and crimes the regime committed.

For now, it's his foundation. But with a little bit of courage, the state can move forward to directly target the late former strongman and his henchmen for other power abuses and extrajudicial killings.

It's time for the truth to prevail and dispel the myth of Suharto's heroism. He has damaged the nation almost beyond repair.

His regime has created embedded corruption, collusion and cronyism, producing a nation in which critical thinking and creativity were stamped out. He is also responsible for corruption and inefficiency in the state bureaucracy and, more generally, for established a high-cost economy full of rent-seeking businesses.

It is safe to say, in short, that practically everything holding back Indonesia today is rooted in the New Order regime.

Indonesia will not be able to move forward unless it can gradually release itself from the legacies of the darkest period of the nation's history.