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Suharto [only one name] was the second President of the Republic of Indonesia. The Great General H.M Suharto walked a long journey in his military and political careers. In the military, Suharto started from KNIL army sergeant, then the commander of the PETA, the regimental commander with the rank of Major and battalion commander as Lieutenant Colonel.

Suharto was born in Kemusuk, Yogyakarta, on June 8, 1921. His father Kertosudiro was a farmer and also the assistant village headman in irrigation paddy field. His mother was named Sukirah. Suharto entered the school when he was eight years old, but frequently moved. Originally schooled in the Village School (SD) Puluhan, Godean, he then moved to SD Pedes. However, then Kertosudiro moved him to Wuryantoro.

He was elected as a model soldier in Schools Officer, Gombong, Central Java in 1941. He officially became a member of the TNI on October 5, 1945. In 1947, Suharto married Siti Hartinah, a daughter of Mangkunegaran, another officer. The marriage of Lieutenant Colonel Suharto and Siti Hartinah was held on December 26, 1947 in Solo. Suharto was 26 years old at that time and Hartinah 24 years old. They had six sons and daughters, Siti Hardiyanti Hastuti, Sigit Harjojudanto, Bambang Trihatmodjo, Siti Hediati Herijadi, Hutomo Mandala Putra and Siti Hutami Endang Adiningsih. In 1949, he successfully led his forces recaptured the city of Yogyakarta from Dutch hands at that time. He was also as a guard of Commander Sudirman. In addition, he also once became the Commander of the Mandala (liberation of West Irian).

Under circumstances that have never been fully explained, on October 1, 1965, Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) sympathizers within the military, including elements from Sukarno's palace guard, occupied key locations in Jakarta and kidnapped and murdered six senior generals. Major General Suharto, the commander of the Army Strategic Reserve, rallied army troops opposed to the PKI to reestablish control over the city. Violence swept throughout Indonesia in the aftermath of the October 1 events, and unsettled conditions persisted through 1966. Right-wing groups killed tens of thousands of alleged communists in rural areas. Estimates of the number of deaths range between 160,000 and 500,000. The violence was especially brutal in Java and Bali. The emotions and fears of instability created by this crisis persisted for many years as the communist party remains banned from Indonesia.

Throughout the 1965-66 period, President Sukarno vainly attempted to restore his political stature and shift the country back to its pre-October 1965 position. Although he remained President, in March 1966, Sukarno transferred key political and military powers to General Suharto, who by that time had become head of the armed forces. In March 1967, the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly (MPRS) named General Suharto acting President. Sukarno ceased to be a political force and lived under virtual house arrest until his death in 1970.

President Suharto proclaimed a "New Order" in Indonesian politics and dramatically shifted foreign and domestic policies away from the course set in Sukarno's final years. The New Order established economic rehabilitation and development as its primary goals and pursued its policies through an administrative structure dominated by the military but with advice from Western-educated economic experts. In 1968, the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) formally selected Suharto to a full 5-year term as President, and he was reelected to successive 5-year terms in 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, and 1998. The New Order era, which lasted for more than 30 years, had a mixed record. Like Guided Democracy, it was authoritarian, but it was more successful in bringing stability to the nation. Unlike Guided Democracy, its economic achievements were enormous and the well-being of the majority of Indonesians undeniably improved. Average life expectancy, for example, increased from 46 to 65.5 years. On the other hand, the states heavy involvement in banking and industry, especially the petroleum and natural gas sectors, worked against competition and encouraged corruption on a large scale. Heavy-handed political control and propagandizing of a national ideology may have aided stability, but also did not prepare the nation for a modern political existence. A modernizing, educated, and better-off middle class grew, but gained little or no political clout; poverty was reduced, but some particularly severe pockets appeared to be intractable.

Suharto provided strong leadership, but he did not provide for a wise transition and, in his last years, clung to power and favored family and friends. In mid-1997, Indonesia suffered from the Asian financial and economic crisis, accompanied by the worst drought in 50 years and falling prices for commodity exports. As the exchange rate changed from a fixed to a managed float to fully floating, the rupiah (IDR or Rp) depreciated in value, inflation increased significantly, and capital flight accelerated. The New Order lost the economic justification that had guaranteed much of its public support, and there was a widespread call for Suharto to step down. Demonstrators, initially led by students, called for Suharto's resignation. Amid widespread civil unrest, Suharto resigned on May 21, 1998, 3 months after the MPR had selected him for a seventh term. Suharto's hand-picked Vice President, B.J. Habibie, became Indonesia's third President.

After being treated for 24 days at Pertamina Hospital in South Jakarta, the former president Suharto finally died on Sunday, January 27, 2006). Soeharto died at 13:10 at the age of 87 years.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2014 19:38:30 ZULU