How to make money : go in politics

What would you do if somebody told you to:

settle your lawsuit for $ 1.5billion…

If there is one thing I missed in my life, it was in pursuing a political career. I was very active in my student days, but I reckoned: I need an honest living first before being able to donate my time to others.

Stupid me I didn’t know there was something like politics: you can make money for promising people things.

Whether you keep or not the promise is not important, what is important that people keep on voting for you so you can stay in power and make more money from people that need their interest to be taken care for and are more than willing to pay you for it…

The 1.5 billion settlement case: Suharto died

suhartoFormer Indonesian president Suharto, born 1921 died
yesterday in hospital.

President Suharto

president suhartoPresident Suharto ruled Indonesia for 32 years from 1965 onwards.

This long timeframe reminds me on Malaysian former president Tun Mahathir, who ruled Malaysia for 22 years.

But apart from a long reign, the 2 men leave a very different political legacy.

General Suharto

general suhartoUnlike Tun Mahathir who is a doctor, Suharto comes from the military: he mainly contributed in freeing Indonesia from Dutch colonial power. This makes General Suharto more comparable to so freedom fighters like Cuban Fidel Castro.

Indonesia declared its independence in 1945 at the end of World War 2. Suharto then joined the new Indonesian army and fought in a five-year war against the Dutch. In March 1949 troops under Suharto’s command attacked the Dutch in Yogyakarta. The Dutch agreed to leave almost all of Indonesia.


Born on 8 June 1921 in the village of Kemusu Argamulja in Central Java, Indonesia from a family of simple peasants. Those days Java was under the rule of the Dutch, so there was need of a strong fist to get away from the Dutch rule… Suharto had found his mission and destiny.

After independence, Suharto keeps in the army, "minding his own business".

When in 1955 Indonesia holds its first democratic election, Sukarno’s Indonesian Nationalist Union (PNI) wins more votes than any other party but doesn’t get the majority of seats.

In stead of doing like in any other democracy: making coalitions, Indonesia became politically instable. This led both to:

  • self-serving actions of military officers in some regional areas and
  • the growth of an Islamic separatist movement.

Sukarno’s answer was to proclaim martial law in 1957 with the help of the Communist Party PKI and the armed forces (ABRI) to assist with his plan for the introduction of a ‘Guided Democracy’ and getting rid of the Dutch.

Take back what is yours but it would have been ice if it was given back to the people…
Compare with Zimbabwe… history always repeats itself…

In the same year Dutch owned companies were nationalised:

  • The Royal Packetship Company (which controls most of Indonesia’s shipping)
  • Royal Dutch Shell
  • 46,000 Dutch nationals are expelled from the country
  • Officers from ABRI are given a role in managing the nationalised firms. In other words: the army has power over the most lucrative economical sources

Meanwhile Suharto is promoted to colonel and also begins to engage in business ventures.

In the middle of the cold war between the USA and Russia, the US supports rebels of military and muslim figures against Sukarno. Sukarno is pushed closer to the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China for help and gets the rebels under control.

Meanwhile Suharto’s extra-military business activities are implicated in sugar smuggling and other corrupt practices. Yet Suharto gets promoted to brigadier-general in January 1960.

Sukarno dissolves the House of Representatives and formally introduces ‘Guided Democracy’: a new parliament established in March 1960 containing:

  • a majority of directly appointed representatives,
  • including blocks from the military (later known as the Golkar party) and
  • from the PKI.

The leader of the PKI heads a newly formed House of Assembly.

The PKI is getting so much power and popularity backed up with a Chinese foreign policy that in 1964 fears of a communist takeover of the country become widespread.

With the army and the communist party in power, and the fear of the communist party taking over all power, it is easy to understand that the military steps in: Suharto, who is now army chief-of-staff, steps in the political arena.

Not without hiccups, Suharto starts attacking the PKI, with the excuse that the PKI was pledging a coup d’etat.

Sukarno appoints Suharto as minister for and commander of the army to "clean up" the PKI.

PKI members and Chinese are targeted by the military, military-backed militias and violent mobs, with up to two million being murdered (most reports estimate the number at around 500,000). Being Chinese in Indonesia is not as easy partly due to this part of history.

Meanwhile also pro-Sukarno elements gets eliminated, allowing Suharto to rise to ultimate power:

  • ban the PKI,
  • ban the PKI powerful labour organisations
  • control the press are tightened
  • end a confrontation with Malaysia is ended
  • re-establish relations with Western powers are reestablished, and
  • suspend all ties with China
  • increase overall spending on the military with some financial assistance coming from the US, (oh yes, the so called ultimate lovers of democracy now back up a military regime…: the government will directly appoint one third of its members. Suharto handpicks judges, the governor of the central bank, the board of directors of each state-owned company and the chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission.)
  • armed forces are given a central and permanent role in civil governance and economic management
  • diplomatic relations with China are broken and most Chinese-language newspapers are closed.

In 1968 Suharto is formally elected for a five-year term as president.

He will remain in the position until 1998, standing unopposed for successive five-year terms in 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993 and 1998.

How did General Suharto keep in control

how did general suharto keep in controlMore or less the same way as how General Suharto came in power in the first place: he kept in control using an iron fist.

Again having witnessed the history of Europe: the benefit of iron fists is that your country gets independence, the disadvantage of an iron fist is that there is not much room for decentralisation.

Protest Suharto

protest suharto
Protest against Suharto after he left office

Every 21th of May: protesters wearing Suharto masks demand the ailing former dictator Suharto to face trial. This day commemorates the anniversary of the massive pro-democracy demonstrations that ousted President Suharto in 1998.

Suharto never has been trailed due to "health reasons" (this history repeats itself in South America…). Suharto has been in hospital for colon surgery and several strokes.

Our condolences to all friends and family members of Suharto, as well to all friends and family members of the people who died under Suharto’s regime.

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