Suharto moves to silence critic
By James Balowski
On August 5, the private secretary of one of Indonesia's best known statespersons was brought to trial for "insulting" President Suharto.
Thirty-four-year-old Buyung Rachmat Buchori is being tried for printing 10,000 copies of the book New Era, New Leader — Badio [Subadio] Rejects New Order Manipulation, written by Subadio Sastrosatomo, who was among those who proclaimed Indonesian Independence in 1945.
Subadio went on to lead the now banned Indonesian Socialist Party, which still has significant influence among intellectuals, NGOs and the educated middle class.
Many of these forces have been involved with the United Indonesian Democratic Party formed by sacked parliamentarian Sri Bintang Pamungkas, now serving a 34-month sentence for "insulting" Suharto.
According to the prosecution, the book accuses Suharto of lying about the events surrounding the 1965 coup attempt — which the regime insists was masterminded by the Indonesian Communist Party — and that he has used the presidency for personal gain.
The book cites the Timor national car project, which was awarded to one of Suharto's sons (and has been the focus of an international trade scandal), and the Freeport gold and copper mine, headed by a long-term Suharto crony, as examples of nepotism.
Although Subadio was brought in for questioning earlier this year, most observers believe that the political cost of trying Subadio would be too high. By trying Buyung instead, the regime is hoping to frighten people working with government critics.
Insulting the president carries a maximum sentence of six years' jail.