FAR EAST CORRESPONDENT — Before Indonesia’s former President Suharto was forced to stand down in 1998, many Western and local media described him as his country’s first democratically elected leader. This was done simply because most journalists were scared of him and his nepotistic regime.
Once gone, and no longer a threat, correspondents immediately changed their tune and referred to the nation’s accepted face of democracy as the “former dictator Suharto” or “the strongman”.
It was an inglorious flip-flop but one that recognized the realities of his 32-year rule.
Fourteen years since his forced retirement, a landmark investigation has determined just how mean Suharto could be, finding he had committed a “gross violation of human rights” when conducting the communist purges of the mid-1960s.