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Suharto's birthday keeps discussion alive

Jakarta Globe - June 10, 2013

Imron Rosyid Taufikur – Thousands of people attended prayers to celebrate what would have been the 92nd birthday of the late President Suharto in Solo, Central Java, on Saturday.

The event was attended by Suharto's children along with influential figures including Aburizal Bakrie, the chairman of the Golkar Party, of which Suharto was a part, Aburizal's predecessor Akbar Tanjung, People's Conscience Party (Hanura) chairman Wiranto, former Army chief Gen. Subagyo H.S. and former finance minister Fuad Bawazier.

To commemorate Suharto's birthday, his half brother, businessman Probosutedjo, built a memorial park in the Yogyakarta district of Bantul featuring Suharto's statue on a 3,620 meter plot of land.

"A big nation is one that honors its heroes. We must never forget the national service heroes have done for the country," Suharto's eldest daughter Siti Hardijanti Rukmana said during the inauguration of the memorial park on Saturday.

Posters and stickers featuring a smiling Suharto and reading "Wasn't it good during my time?" have become commonplace in Central Java recently.

But Winarso, coordinator of a group for victims of the Suharto regime, warned of the need to be careful about wishing for a return to Suharto's methods. "This phenomenon shows that the cronies of the New Order have completed their consolidation," Winarso said on Saturday.

Winarso said people close to Suharto's New Order regime had been hiding and claimed to be the supporters of reform when in fact they were watching political developments with suspicion. "Now they have come out as Suharto's admirers," Winarso said.

He added that Suharto's supporters had been seeking to attract contemporary support for Suharto, who died in 2008, aged 86. "It's not surprising to see the T-shirts and stickers bearing Suharto's picture emerging, especially in Solo and Yogyakarta," he said.

"They are a threat, especially for millions of families of victims of the New Order." He added that Suharto's regime had murdered many people accused of being supporters of the disbanded Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), without even a court trial.

Former Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud M.D., a potential 2014 presidential contender, said Suharto, like any person, had both good and bad sides.

He said Indonesians should focus on the positive things he had done for the country, such as strong government and clear political direction. Mahfud said Suharto's leadership was badly needed from 1965 to 1967, when he assumed power.

"In terms of his weaknesses, he created a system that provided room for corruption, collusion, and nepotism [KKN] practices. That's undeniable," Mahfud said on Friday.

He said that Suharto in 1978 started to facilitate KKN, which went on to account for 30 percent of the state budget and continued until he was forced from office 20 years later. "We cannot label our leaders as being all bad, so I agree with the commemoration," he said of Suharto's birthday commemoration.