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Indonesian Court Orders Family of Former President Suharto to Return Embezzled Funds

Students in Karawang, Indonesia. Photo from Public Domain Images

Students in Karawang, Indonesia. Photo from Public Domain Images

Indonesia's Supreme Court has ruled that the foundation of the late President Suharto is guilty of embezzling state funds from 1976 to 1998. It ordered the family of Suharto to return 315 million US dollars to the state.

Suharto ruled Indonesia from 1967 to 1998. During his 31-year rule, he was accused of committing grave human rights violations and massive corruption. Several weeks of street riots and rallies forced Suharto to resign in 1998.

In 1976, Suharto ordered state-managed banks to set aside 2.5 percent of their profits in favor of Supersemar Foundation's scholarship program. But in 2010, the court found the foundation once chaired by Suharto guilty of misappropriating public funds. It also noted that only a tiny amount of the funds was actually distributed to students. Last month, the court issued its final ruling on the matter.

The ruling, which was made public only this month, is significant since it’s the first time that a local court has found Suharto guilty of corruption. Naturally, it got intense reactions from many Indonesians.

Kompasiana, Indonesia's leading citizen media platform, featured some commentaries about the issue. Vishnu Andang Jaya urged Suharto's family to respect the court's ruling and to immediately return the people's money. Fadli Zontor wrote that the foundation was a mysterious entity with many questionable dealings in the past. Indira Revi urged an audit of all ‘donations’ registered by state-owned enterprises, especially during the time of Suharto.

But Hatta Celebes testified that the scholarship program was real:

I am proud to have received a scholarship from this foundation and this foundation had a positive role that many in this country are now ignoring.

Masinton Pasaribu, one of the student activists who joined the anti-Suharto rallies in 1998, urged the government to quickly implement the court's decision.

Meanwhile, Suharto's youngest son, Tommy Suharto, is challenging the decision of the Supreme Court via Twitter:

No retreat in fighting for the truth. Tonight I initiated an appeal to protect the dignity of sons and daughters of the best graduates of (Supersemar Scholarship)!

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