Victims of New Order dictatorship reject Suharto’s nomination as national hero

CNN Indonesia – October 27, 2016
65 Forum members visit Social Affairs Ministry to oppose Suharto being made national hero - October 27, 2016 (CNN)
65 Forum members visit Social Affairs Ministry to oppose Suharto being made national hero - October 27, 2016 (CNN)

M Andika Putra, Jakarta – Some 27 victims of human rights violence from the ‘65 Forum visited the Social Affairs Ministry (Kemensos) to convey their opposition to former President Suharto being made a national hero.

Their advanced age proved no obstacle to taking action. Since 9.30 in the morning they had been waiting patiently in the ministry’s lobby to meet with Kemensos officials.

“We have come to hand over a petition opposing Suharto as a national hero. Recent information [suggests] that a document designating Suharto as a hero has already been signed”, said ‘65 Forum member Bedjo Untung.

Bedjo, who is also the chairperson of the Institute for the Study of the 1965-1966 Massacres (YPKP ‘65), claimed that the many victims of past human rights violence would be dismayed if the former president became a national hero. It would be as if their struggle to survive all these years would have been in vain.

At 10.35am officials from the Kemensos received the ‘65 Forum members for a dialogue. They were greeted by Director General for Social Development and Poverty Eradication Hartono Laras who represented Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa who was unable to attend.

During the dialogue the ‘65 Forum members conveyed their official complaints saying that Suharto is not worthy of being made a national hero. Aside from committing human rights violations, the group said that Suharto also committed corruption when he held the post of Indonesian president.

“[So] essentially we are asking for clarification as whether it is true that Suharto has been included in the national hero nominations that will be determined on November 10. If it is true, we ask that it be cancelled”, said ‘65 Forum coordinator Bonie Setiawan.

During the dialogue Bonie stated that Suharto totally fails to fulfill the requirements to be a national hero. Earlier, the ‘66 Forum also setup an on-line petition on the website rejecting Suharto as a national hero.

1965 Murder Victims Inquiry Foundation (YKKP) executive director Djoko Purwanto conveyed a similar view saying he will never forget what was done by Suharto when he was in power.

Djoko produced a copy of an article stating that the appointment of Suharto as a hero had already been ‘cleared’. “The title of hero for Suharto must be rejected. He was a corruptor, he used violence for personal gain and [he was a] human rights violator. I’ve already sent a (message) to Pak Jokowi [President Joko Widodo] saying that the title of hero must be rejected”, said Djoko.

At the end of the dialog, Hartono explained in detail the selection of Suharto as a national hero. “This year we did not recommend (Suharto). The meaning of this is clear, the ball is in the Palace’s court”, said Hartono.

Central Java government proposal

Hartono revealed that the proposal to name Suharto a national hero was made by the Central Java provincial government based on a special study by the National Hero Research and Investigation Team (TPPGPB).

The 13 member team is made of TNI (Indonesian military) historians, the National Library, the University of Indonesia, the National Secretariat and historians. “We have remained objective and are not part of this team. The proposal of Suharto was made by the TPPGPB and we have conveyed this to the president”, said Hartono.

The TPPGPB has been proposing Suharto’s name to the Board of Titles, Orders of Merit and Decorations since 2019. Hartono said however that up until now no decision has been made on the grounds that further views and opinions need to be sought.

The actual decision on Suharto’s status will be taken by President Widodo with the assistance of the Board of Titles. The board is made up of seven members and is chaired by current Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu.

In response to this, Bonie said that the ‘65 Forum will be monitoring the nomination of Suharto as a national hero. “If it happens (Suharto’s appointment), we will call for it to be annulled”, said Bonie. (wis/rel)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was Soeharto Ditolak Jadi Pahlawan Nasional.]