Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 01:16 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 01:16 | SYDNEY


Stephen Grenville

28 January 2008 10:09

The death of former Indonesian president Soeharto will trigger another round of debate about his contribution. Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew, whose country was a major beneficiary in the decades of stability after Sukarno’s 'konfrontasi', acknowledged the overwhelmingly positive balance to the ledger some weeks ago, despite corruption and the malign influence of the Soeharto family’s business interests.

For Indonesians, there will be the complexity and enigmatic contradictions of his legacy. On the one hand, the transformation of the basket-case economy of the 1960s, creating a whole new middle-class in the process, and laying the basis for a surprisingly smooth move to democracy. But there is also the entrenched corruption which still clogs administration at every level, and — generally unspoken — the memories of the killings in Java and Bali in the bloody inter-regnum between Sukarno and Soeharto.

Let’s see how the Australian press and commentators sum it up. They rarely miss the opportunity to add the epithet 'dictator' to his name, a term they never use for Uncle Ho or Mao (both with bloody records and less democracy).  The Australian has already described his regime as 'one of the 20th century’s most brutal and corrupt'.

As we observe events in Pakistan, we might say a word of thanks for the man who helped keep our neighbourhood stable for three decades, allowing us to get on with the Good Life.