Soeharto. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Commemorating the centenary of his birth

IO – The second President of the Republic of Indonesia, Soeharto, was born on June 8. Soeharto, who ruled for 32 years, was born in 1921 to Kertosudiro and Sukirah. 

On the 100th anniversary of his birth, Soeharto’s extended family commemorated Soeharto’s centenary at the At-Tin Mosque, Taman Mini Indonesia Indah Complex, East Jakarta, on Tuesday 8 June 2021. 

In addition to Soeharto’s immediate family, Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto and Jakarta Governor Anies Rasyid Baswedan were also present. 

Soeharto was appointed Acting President of Indonesia by the Provisional People’s Consultative Assembly on March 12, 1967. A year later, on March 27, 1968, he was officially appointed as President for his first five-year term. 

With the establishment of a “New Order”, Soeharto was in power for 32 years until he lost the mandate of the people, and was more or less forced to step down, on May 21, 1998. 

During a state visit to Egypt, on May 13, 1998, President Soeharto stated that he was willing to resign if it was the will of the people, and would not defend his position by force of arms. Following this development, on May 20, 1998 eleven ministers for the economy and industry in the Seventh Development Cabinet submitted their resignations: as the situation spiraled out of control, a colossal monetary and economic crisis undermined Soeharto’s legitimacy. As a result, Soeharto saw that he could not legitimately continue to act as President. 

Only 70 days after being reappointed for a seventh term, Soeharto was impelled to resign from his position, and stepped down on May 21, 1998. At precisely 09.00 West Indonesia Time, Soeharto submitted his resignation from his position as President, and was replaced by the then Vice President, BJ Habibie.

In the Credentials Room of Merdeka Palace, North Medan Merdeka Street, Jakarta, President Soeharto read his last speech. 

“Over recent years, I have been following closely the developments of our national situation, especially the aspirations of the people to carry out reforms in all areas of the life of the nation and state. My response is based on a deep understanding of these aspirations and isdriven by the belief that reforms need to be carried out in an orderly, peaceful, and Constitutional manner. 

For the sake of maintaining the unity and integrity of the nation, as well as the continuity of national development, I have submitted a plan for a Reform Committee and intended amend the composition of the Seventh Development Cabinet. However, the reality to this day reveals that the proposed Reform Committee cannot be realized, as there has been no adequate response to the plan to form the committee. 

In the desire to carry out reforms in the best possible way, I consider that with the absence of the Reform Committee, changes to the composition of the Seventh Development Cabinet are no longer necessary. 

Taking into account the situation above, I conclude it is very difficult for me to be able to carry out the duties of state government and development properly. Therefore, taking into account the provisions of Article 8 of the 1945 Constitution and seriously paying attention to the views of the leadership of the House of Representatives and the leaders of its factions, I have decided to declare my resignation from the position as President of the Republic of Indonesia, as of the time I present this statement, on Thursday, May 21, 1998. 

My statement, announcing that I have resigned from my position as President of the Republic of Indonesia, I conveyed before the leaders of the House of Representatives, who are also the leaders of the People’s Consultative Assembly, on the occasion of the gathering. Following Article 8 of the 1945 Constitution, the Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, Prof. Dr. Ing. BJ Habibie will continue to serve for the remaining term of office as President for the 1998–2003 period. I thank you and apologize if there are mistakes and shortcomings when I led the country and nation of Indonesia, I hope that the Indonesian people will continue to be victorious with Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. 

Starting today, the Seventh Development Cabinet is also officially decommissioned and I would like to convey my thanks to the Ministers. Due to the circumstances that it is not possible to take the oath in front of the House of Representatives, to avoid a leadership vacuum in administering the state government, the vice president will now also carry out the presidential oath of office before the Supreme Court of the Republic of Indonesia.” 

Born into a farming family, Soeharto started his education at the Godean Elementary School. Later, he moved to Pedes Elementary School, because his mother and her husband, Pramono, had moved to Kemusuk Kidul. Later, Kertosudiro transferred Soeharto to a school in Wuryantoro. At that time Soeharto was entrusted to live at the house of Kertosudiro’s younger sister. 

Growing up, Soeharto was nominated a “model soldier” at the army school in Gombong, Central Java, in 1941. He also officially became a member of the Indonesian National Army on October 5, 1945. In 1947, Soeharto married Siti Hartinah, the daughter of an employee of Mangkunegaran Palace, Surakarta. The marriage of Lieutenant Colonel Soeharto and Siti Hartinah took place on December 26, 1947, in Solo, when Soeharto was 26 years old and Hartinah 24. 

The couple had six children: Siti Hardiyanti Hastuti, Sigit Harjojudanto, Bambang Trihatmodjo, Siti Hediati Herijadi, Hutomo Mandala Putra and Siti Hutami Endang Adiningsih. 

Soeharto started his career with the rank of sergeant in the Royal Netherlands-Indies Army (KNIL). Then he became a commander of PETA, a Japanese-formed troop consisting of native Indonesians, a regiment commander with the rank of major, and a battalion commander with the rank of lieutenant colonel. 

In 1949, Soeharto became part of the successful recapture of Yogyakarta from the Dutch. He was also a bodyguard for Sudirman, the highest commander of Indonesia’s armed forces during the War of Independence. 

In addition, Soeharto was also the Commander of the Mandala Campaign during the Liberation of West Irian (Papua). On October 1, 1965, Soeharto took over the leadership of the Army when the G-30S incident erupted. In addition to being confirmed as Commander of the Army, he was also appointed as Commander of Operations to Restore Security and Order (Pangkopkamtib) by President Soekarno. 

In March 1966, Soeharto received a March-11th Command Letter (Supersemar) from President Soekarno. In this Command Letter, Soeharto was given the mandate to restore security and order in the country following the G30S incident on October 1, 1965. 

Note that Supersemar is still a sensitive and controversial matter, because the original document cannot be produced. (rp)