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Soeharto often falls asleep in Cabinet meetings

SiaR - April 9, 1997

Jakarta – President Soeharto's health has been an issue in the foreign media all week. It was reported that Suharto (77) suffered a mild stroke on April 1. This report was denied by Foreign Minister Ali Alatas as nonsense.

The issue of the health of a state leader who has ruled for a long period frequently becomes the focus of discussion. For example, the death of Deng Xiao Ping, who ruled from behind the scenes in China, was reported several times. This was preceded by frequent reports in the foreign media of his worsening health.

Information collated by SiaR from around Bina Graha [State Secretariat of the President] is that Soeharto is more and more losing it. According to one Minsiter, Soeharto often falls asleep while leading Cabinet meetings. He often becomes angry without any apparent reason..

In a recent meeting of the 27 provincial governors, Soeharto lost his temper. But he wasn't angry with any of the governors but with Soebadio Sastrosatomo, a figure from the Indoensian Socialist Party (PSI) [banned since 1960 - Ed.], who - of course - was not at the meeting. While slaming down the former PSI General Secretary's new book "New Era, New Leadership: Badio Rejects the New Order's Manipulations", Soeharto said that PSI figures were misbehaving. According to the information obtained by SiaR, Soeharto mentioned the names of Soemitro Djojohadikusumo [businessman, former Soeharto cabinet minister], father of Major General Prabowo Subianto who is Suharto's own son-in-law. Sumitro was indeed a leader of the PSI and of the attempts to establish a Provisional Revolutionary Government of Indonesia - PRRI. {SEE NOTE BELOW}.

The statement by Soeharto startled all the Governors and other high officials at the meeting. It is also reported that this statement reached the ears of Major-General Prabowo who felt very ill at ease about it.

Another figure who has been the subject of Soeharto's wrath in "public" is Minister for Technology and Research, BJ Habibie, who is also the head of ICMI (Indonesian Moslem Intellectuals Association).

In a meeting of the Finance and Economy Committee of the Cabinet, Habibie interrupted Agriculture Minister Sjarifudin Baharsjah. who was proposing that the government import fishing boats. Habibie, who is head of the state shipping company (PAL), interrupted to say that PAL could supply the fishing boats. Either because he was annoyed at the interruption or because he was annoyed with Habibie about the case of Amin Rais, the head of the ICMI Experts Council (SEE NOTE BELOW), Soeharto lost his temper. "You do not need to interefre in this. Just you carry out your duties. Where are results from PAL?"

Many commentators are also citing Soeharto's decision to ask Minister Hayona Isman to organise a seminar on former President Soekarno's last formal accounting in a speech called Nawaksara to the Peoples Consultative Assembly, which the Assembly rejected. This began the New Order period. Commentators point out that such a seminar would also remind people that what happened to Sukarno could also happen to Soeharto himself. The aim of the seminar was to refute the idea that Suharto carried out a coup against Sukarno, but some commentators are saying that the actual effect could be to boomerang on him.

"He is providing a symbol or sign that he thinks his fall is soon. When the intention was exactly the opposite," said one figure who lead student demonstrations at the time Sukarno read out his accounting to the parliament. [The seminar has since been cancelled. - Ed]

SiaR is an alternative Indonesian language news service issued on the email by independent journalists.


[The PSI was banned by former President Sukarno when it refused to disassociate itself from the armed rebellion which attempted to set up the PRRI and which was backed by ultra-rightist military forces that were being supplied by the United States. The PSI was an ally of Soeharto and the Armed Forces in 1965 when Soeharto moved to get rid of President Sukarno. Soeharto gradually pushed the PSI out of the ruling cirlces and many PSI figures became behind the scenes opponents of Soeharto. - Ed]

[Amin Rais is the head of a moslem welfare and educational organisation called Muhammidiyah with several millions of members. He was forced from his position of Head of the ICMI Council of Experts following statements he made critical of government policy in the economic, mining and foreign investment areas. The issue was widely reported in the media and was an embarassment for the government as ICMI is seen as an essentially pro-government organisation. - Ed]