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Suharto, and Before

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Suharto Recalled   '

'What people want, what I want, is a return to Suharto's time. Life is bitter now compared to then.'' 

 The speaker was a man named Boan, a peasant struggling to feed three children, toiling in fields owned by wealthy farmers. ''This government doesn't care about us,'' he continues.  Amad (31) makes $1.60 a day; he was more worried about feeding his pregnant wife than bringing Suharto to trial. ''Now we cannot afford anything,'' he said ''It was better then than now.'' 

''If you go to the village level, they prefer a dictatorship to what they see, at times, as a chaotic democratic system,'' said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, head of research at the political think tank Habibie Center.  In June last year, where ten years ago thousands had demanded his resignation,  dozens of supporters unravelled banners wishing him a happy birthday at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070826/ap_on_re_as/longing_for_suharto). 

Nostalgia for an imagined past? That's not what the history books and the statistics say.  

Life expectancy at birth (years)

Infant mortality per 1,000 live births [1960 / 1993]

Adult Illiteracy (%) [1960 / 1993]

Population per doctor [1960 / 1990]

 

Indonesia      195.5 (population, 1995)   [41 / 63]    [139 / 56]  [61 / 17] [46,780 / 9,410]

South Korea        44.9 (population, 1995) [54 / 71]   [85  / 11]   [29 /  2]  [3,540 / 1,160]

Thailand        60.2 (population, 1995) [52 / 69] [103 / 36]  [32 / 6] [7,950 / 6,290]

Malaysia             20.1 (population, 1995) [54 / 71]   [73 – 13]  [42 / 18] [7,020 / 1,930]

Philippines        68.6 (population, 1995) [53 / 67]   [80 / 43]  [28 / 6]    [na / 6,570]

One country reduces the number of people living in poverty from 70% to 15% in 30 years; another achieves a meagre reduction from 55% to 37 % in 50 years. No two nations so starkly oppose economic prosperity to political freedom as Suharto's Indonesia and post-independence India. Nor was Suharto the pure kleptocrat he has been made out to be: true, his family made around $35 billion, but, unlike, say, Nigeria, Indonesia's oil wealth, according to historian David Reynolds, was made use of to provide ''massive aid to poorer regions and the promotion of rural infrastructure'' (David Reynolds, One World Divisible: A Global History Since 1945, (New York: W.W.Norton and Co., 2000), pp. 430-431). Where Sukarno had been against birth control, Suharto inaugurated family planning, and the fertility rate dropped from 5.4 births per woman in 1960-65 to 3.3 in 1985 – 90 (in India, the figures were 5.8 and 4.3, respectively) (Reynolds, 442).  

Suharto resigned on May 12, 1998. Foremost among those who demanded his departure had been student protesters. What triggered the protests was a financial crisis blamed by the uninformed students on Suharto and his family.

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http://iftekharsayeed.weebly.com

Iftekhar Sayeed teaches English and economics. He was born and lives in Dhaka, "ŽBangladesh. He has contributed to AXIS OF LOGIC, ENTER TEXT, POSTCOLONIAL "ŽTEXT, LEFT CURVE, MOBIUS, ERBACCE, THE JOURNAL, and other publications. "ŽHe is also a (more...)
 
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