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Feb 3, 2008

Soeharto ... Tiada Maaf Bagi mu

Sukarno's widow refuses to forgive

THE Japanese widow of Indonesia's founding president, Sukarno, has said she will never forgive his successor, Suharto, likening his repression to Pol Pot.

Suharto was buried yesterday in a state funeral in central Java as Asian leaders praised his legacy.

But Sukarno's third wife, Ratna Sari Dewi Sukarno, said: "I don't want to lash out at a dead man but I cannot forgive Suharto.

"He was Indonesia's Pol Pot," she added, referring to the late leader of Cambodia's genocidal Khmer Rouge.

Suharto seized power from Sukarno in 1966. Ms Dewi, a former bar hostess born as Naoko Nemoto, married Sukarno at age 19 in 1962 after he was charmed by her on a state visit to Tokyo.

After Sukarno died under house arrest in 1970, she returned to Japan, where she has become a television personality and runs a jewellery and cosmetics business.

Despite Indonesia's economic progress under Suharto, his tenure was marked by the killings of at least half a million communists and sympathisers from 1966, the invasion of East Timor and quelling of separatist movements in Aceh and Papua.

Ms Dewi blamed Suharto for the death of her husband and for mass killings around the country. "Although he had a soft face, he could be cruel and heartless at the same time," she said. "You could not tell what he was like on the inside. What he said and what he did were two different things."

Ms Dewi said many Indonesians still suffered from the cronyism and corruption of his 32-year leadership, adding he was lucky to have lived out his days among friends.

But Thailand's outgoing Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont praised Suharto for helping to maintain security across Southeast Asia.

"Thailand deeply appreciates the enormous contributions his excellency General Suharto rendered to the causes of peace and security in the region," he said in a condolence letter.

"He has made this region far safer, stronger and more confident than it was decades ago."

Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew said history would grant Suharto "a place of honour".

"He has shown himself to be a man of his word. Whatever he had promised, he would deliver. He was taciturn, but tenacious," Mr Lee said in a letter to Suharto's daughter Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana.

While Suharto was forced to step down in 1998 amid widespread rioting after the rupiah collapsed, Mr Lee said the Indonesian president was not responsible for the foreign debt problems of many Indonesian companies and banks that triggered the currency's fall.

Another Suharto contemporary, Malaysia's former premier Mahathir Mohamad, hailed him as a "great leader and an international statesman," saying reports he had orchestrated the bloodletting of 1965 were "absolute nonsense".

"I know this for a fact. I knew what happened," said Dr Mahathir, who arrived at the mausoleum where Suharto was being buried 20 minutes after the official ceremony had ended.

"Indonesia was in a state of anarchy then. At the time of the killings, he was not even the president. He did not order the killing."

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda recalled Suharto's efforts to maintain friendly ties.

"I sincerely pray that former president Suharto would rest in peace. Former president Suharto had long worked to maintain the friendly and goodwill relations between our nation and Indonesia," he said.



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