National Hero Title for Suharto Still On Hold: Minister

President Suharto's image can be found on posters around Indonesia in increasing numbers, as people seek the stability that his often-brutal leadership brought to the country. His name is now being touted as a possible national hero candidate to be declared later this year. (JG Photo/Ali Lutfi)

By : Jakarta Globe | on 11:46 AM May 23, 2016
Category : News, Politics, Featured

Jakarta. A plan to bestow the official title of national hero to former president Suharto is still being discussed by the Council on Titles, Decorations and Honors tasked with proposing names for the title, Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa said on Sunday (22/05).

The plan is on everyone's lips this month after newly-elected Golkar Party chairman Setya Novanto promised he will do his best to secure the national hero title for Suharto—the founder of Golkar who ruled the country for 32 years—saying, “Suharto pioneered this country's development.”

“The Titles Council, led by the Defense Minister [Ryamizard Ryacudu], still needs to discuss the issue,” Minister Khofifah told reporters in Surabaya, as reported by Kompascom. “Once the council has finished their deliberation, the Social Affairs Ministry will issue the [national hero] decree.”

According to government regulation, the Social Ministry has to propose a series of names to be given the title of national hero to the president after discussing them with the Titles Council. The president will decide which names will be given the official title—which will be granted in a ceremony on National Heroes Day, Nov. 10.

However, not everyone agrees that former dictator Suharto should be given the title.

Chief Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan has declared his support for the pro-Suharto side, saying "the country should not forget the positive things Suharto did, though as a leader he did make some mistakes."

“We have to look at the bigger picture. Let's be honest, Suharto did make some mistakes but at the same time he also transformed the country from an unregarded backwater into a modern country. No one can deny that,” Luhut said in a media briefing on Friday.

On the other side of the divide, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Masinton Pasaribu asked the government to reconsider the plan, since the public now sees Suharto as the ultimate source of corruption, collusion and nepotistic practices during his rule.

Masinton noted that a People’s Consultative Assembly Decree (Tap MPR) released in 1998 declared that Suharto was involved in many corruptions cases.

“The decree clearly and firmly stated that Suharto was personally—legally—involved in these cases,” Masinton said.

Suharto, nicknamed the “Smiling General” while he was president, died after a long illness in January 2008. He was brought down from power in 1998 by massive student-led protests after ruling the country for 32 years, during which time Indonesia was celebrated for its economic development. But dissent was muffled during his reign and many people disappeared when his family’s wealth and iron-fisted rule was questioned.

Last December, a Supreme Court's ruling ordered the family of Suharto to return Rp 4.4 trillion ($317 million) to the state after the former strongman was proven guilty of misappropriating state funds during his three-decade rule.

The court ruled the funds accumulated since the establishment of the Supersemar foundation—a total sum of $420 million and Rp 185 billion—were largely embezzled and never used for their stated purpose: to improve education throughout the country.

The Suharto family still has not returned any of the money to this day.

Writing by Edo Karensa

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