Carmel Budiardjo: The Family Firm

During the 32 years of the New Order, the Suharto family made good use of the special privileges they enjoyed to pursue a wide range of business ventures. First to set the pattern was Suharto�s wife, Tien (Siti Hartinah) Suharto who became known as Madame Ten Percent, thanks to her involvement in a wide range of business ventures. Together with the tycoon and Suharto crony, Liem Sioe Liong, for instance, she took control of PT Bogasari Mills which was granted a state monopoly for the import, milling and distribution of flour.

She also became the chief patron and beneficiary of Taman Mini (Indonesia in Miniature) Project, a high-profile project covering a large area of landon the outskirts of Jakarta, where the traditions and artefacts of all the provinces of the country were put on display. Set up in 1971 at a cost of $25 million, officials said at the time that these funds could have been better used to fund no fewer than 52 small businesses or seven large universities.

As the wife of the president, she chaired Dharma Wanita, a compulsory civil servants� wives� association which organised the Family Welfare Movement, a cultural movement whose aim was to promote the ideology of Suharto�s New Order throughout the country, reaching down to the villages.

Tien Suharto died suddenly on 28 April 1996, reportedly from shock, after witnessing a bitter row between two of her sons.

The six children of Suharto and his wife all became involved in a wide variety of business ventures, benefiting from the many privileges which they enjoyed by virtue of being the sons and daughters of the president. According to TIME-Asia (24 May 1999), the six Suharto children owned between them significant equity in at least 564 companies, covering a range of commodities and businesses from oil and cloves (used in the popular kretek cigarettes) to land, toll roads, airlines, hotels, TV stations and real estate. Foremost among these offspring was Tommy (Hutomo Mandala Putra) Suharto, the youngest of the brood and Suharto�s favourite son who, like his five siblings, benefited from the system of patronage set up by Suharto during his 32-year rule. Himself a keen sports-car racer, his many companies included the Lambrighini sports car company and a 75 percent stake in an 18-hole golf course and 22 luxury apartments in Ascot, Britain.

In 2000, Tommy, became the first (and as yet the only) member of the Suharto family to be tried and convicted in a court of law. He was given a 15-year sentence for ordering the murder of a Supreme Court judge who had found him guilty of a land scam and given him an 18-month sentence. But in 2005, in an unprecedented decision, he was released from jail after serving only one third of his sentence. These days, reports about the far-flung riches of Tommy Suharto and the cases against him pending in courts around the world are hardly ever off the front pages of Indonesian newspapers. In the final years of his life, Suharto was obviously troubled by the persistent references to his greed and corruption. Perhaps thinking that he could clear his name by taking on one of the world�s most prestigious news magazines, he decided to sue TIME for an article about his accumulated wealth. He filed a case suing the Asian edition of TIME magazine for defamation for an article it published in May 1999 titled �Suharto Inc� which reported that he and his family had amassed a fortune of $15 billion.

After two lower courts rejected the complaint, Indonesia�s Supreme Court reversed the verdict and ordered the magazine, its editor and five staff members to pay Suharto the sum of $111 million. The Indonesian lawyer who acted for TIME, Todung Mulya Lubis, described the verdict as an affront to the principle of press freedom. He said: �The supporters of Suharto are still within the government, within the parliament, within the judiciary within the business of society. They may not be as strong as in the past but they are still there.� He described the judgment of the Supreme Court as �a blow for democracy, for the freedom of the press�.

While this charade was underway, an agency set up by the World Bank and the UN, the StAR (Stolen Assets Recovery) initiative, put Suharto at the verytop of their list of former heads of state for stealing between $15 billion and $35 billion during his 32-year rule. The figures were based on investigations carried out by Transparency International.

Suharto departed this world without facing justice for his multiple crimes against humanity or for the extremely brutal campaign carried out by his troops in their attempt to crush the resistance movement in East Timor.

Although Suharto stood head and shoulders above other government leaders who ruthlessly repressed their populations, his crimes never gained theworld attention accorded to other brutal leaders such as Pinochet or Pol Pot. Even when the massacres of 1965-66 were in full swing, world media coverage was meagre. Scanning British media coverage of those events, after I returned home to London, I found barely a mention of what was going on, and most of the reports I did find described the killings as the consequence of a �civil war�.

Shortly after returning home in November 1971 following three years of political imprisonment, I happened to be sitting near a group of Amnesty officials who were discussing a report about torture. I asked them whether they would include Indonesia but they appeared to be unaware that torturein Indonesia was a problem. Comparing the press reports I saw about the massacres in Chile when Pinochet took power and reports about the 1965-66 killings, I was shocked by the lack of coverage devoted to Indonesia.

Suharto could count his blessings that, perhaps apart from The Netherlands where Indonesia was a familiar topic, he could, and did, get away with blue murder without much of the world even noticing.

Carmel Budiardjo