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Suharto's Clan: Still in Business, Stumbling in Politics
Accountability runs thin in Indonesia
For decades, they were among the richest, most powerful – and arrogant – people in Asia, and possibly among the most feared. They ran Jakarta as if they owned it, which indeed they seemed to. They were the children of Indonesia’s dictator Suharto, who ruled the country from 1967 until May 21, 1998, when he was finally driven from power by the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-1997 and by the excesses of his family, his cronies, and himself.
Unlike the children of the equally corrupt Filipino strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who returned from disgrace and reentered politics to a lenient nation, Suharto’s offspring have so far failed at public life although they remain in Jakarta, largely untouched by the law. Some of the six, such as Titiek and Tommy, sought to use their father's name to gain political support, but failed. Even so, they live in prosperity and are busy managing businesses worth billions of rupiah, the fruit of their father's reign. There have been sporadic efforts to regain some of the stolen funds. In 2019, the government signed a Mutual Legal Agreement (MLA) with Switzerland designed to facilitate the tracing and freezing of assets amassed from criminal acts. But despite initial hopes so far there has been little effort to use it.
Suharto, according to respected organizations that investigated, is alleged to have amassed enormous wealth through corruption, collusion, and nepotism. He granted monopolies to his spawn that gave them control over significant areas of the Indonesian economy. In 2004, Transparency International agency released the Global Corruption Report, ranking Suharto then as the world's most corrupt leader with assets of US$15-35 billion amassed during his 32 years in power. He surpassed others, such as the Philippines’ Marcos, with wealth of US$5-10 billion, and Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic with US$1 billion although all are believed to be far behind Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, who is believed to sit on a fortune estimated in 2013 at US$40-70 billion.
From his marriage to Siti Hartinah, Suharto was blessed with Sigit Harjojudanto, Siti Hediati Hariyadi (Titiek), and Siti Hutami Endang Adiningsih (Mamiek), Siti Hardijanti Rukmana (Tutut), Bambang Trihatmodjo, and Hutomo Mandala Putra (Tommy). In 2018, Globe Asia Magazine included the last three names on the list of the richest people in Indonesia, with Tommy at No. 90 with an estimated fortune of US$670 million, Bambang at 124 with assets of US$250 million, and Tutut at 130 with assets of US$ 205 million. All remain on the list of Indonesia’s 10 richest.
Suharto rerouted to his children and cronies public funds through dozens of foundations affiliated with the companies that host the funds. Until he died in 2008, 10 years after his fall from power, Suharto was never tried for the charges against him. The government under President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, continues to collect debts owed to the state amassed while their father was in power, now 25 years ago. Tommy, Tutut, and Bambang's total debt reached Rp3.79 trillion (US$253.05 million). The state also continues to try to take over assets of the Suharto family foundation, such as management of a tourist complex, the Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (TMII), an office building, Granadi, and a villa, Megamendung, in Bogor City. N 2008, the attorney general’s office filed suit against Supersemar, one of the biggest foundations, for misusing funds and diverting them to the family’s businesses. Although Supersemar was found guilty and was ordered to pay Rp 4.4 trillion, it has yet to pay back the full amount according to local media. The government continues to chip away at the children’s stolen assets. In November 2021, authorities seized four plots in west Java totaling 124 hectares owned by Tommy, the youngest son, as part of efforts to recover money owed by his PT Timor Putra Nasional, a carmaker, after it defaulted on loans from state banks worth US$180.8 million.
Suharto's children went into business while young and enjoyed various privileges while their father was still in office. Tutut, for example, easily won the contract to build hundreds of kilometers of toll roads. Tommy, who loves car racing, sought to develop Timor Putra Nasional into a national car industry with financial assistance from the government, but went bankrupt. The Indonesian Transparency Society in 1999 examined 79 presidential decrees indicating abuse of power issued by Suharto during the 1993-1998 period.
After Suharto’s fall, his children tried to restore the glory of the family in politics but failed. Tutut desired to run as a presidential candidate in the 2004 presidential election through the Karya Concern for the Nation Party (PKPB) but failed when the party couldn’t muster the clout to qualify for parliament. Tommy twice ran for chairman of the Golkar Party, which supported the government during Suharto's rule, but also failed. Tommy then founded the Berkarya Party in 2018, which was predicted to win votes from Suharto loyalists, only to be usurped by Muchdi Pr, a former general who was known to be close to Suharto and who was tried for the murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib. Muchdi is said to have moved due to Berkarya's dismal failure in the 2019 legislative election. Muchdi has been no more successful since Berkarya didn’t have enough public support to pass the verification process by the General Elections Commission (KPU) and therefore cannot take part in the 2024 general election. Parsindo, reported to be Tommy's newest party, also failed the KPU's verification.
Efforts to restore the supposed romanticism of the Suharto era have taken place in recent years, with campaigns through various media including posters and banners scattered in various regions. However, the campaign still failed to increase the votes of parties affiliated with the Cendana Family—a term referring to the Suhartos. Prabowo Subianto, once married to Titiek, has also failed to the point where today many view him as a perennial candidate. Many lay the failure of Suharto's children in politics to their minimal contribution in public affairs, only relying on their father's name. The family is also still regarded as tainted. Moreover, Tommy was imprisoned in Nusa Kambangan, Cilacap, Central Java, after being proven guilty in the murder case of Supreme Court Judge Syafiudin Kartasasmita in July 2002, but was released on parole in September 2006.
Although neglected politically, Tommy’s holding company PT Humpuss is said to oversee dozens of companies in various fields including oil and gas, property, chemical products, and agriculture. Recently, he reportedly bought a tugboat for Rp84 billion through his sea transportation service company, PT Humpuss Intermoda Transportasi Tbk. (HITS). He is the owner of a circuit in Sentul and a range of hotels through PT Lor Internasional Hotel. Tommy's 24-year-old son, Dharma Mangkuluhur, is now the president of PT Humpuss Land which is engaged in property, real estate, and construction.
Suharto's other children have continued to run businesses and live in prosperity. Tutut, the eldest daughter, has shares in Citra Lamtoro Gung Persada Group which is engaged in construction, trade, agriculture, and handicrafts. She was the CEO of PT Cipta Televisi Pendidikan Indonesia, which supervised the TPI television station before being taken over by MNC Corp, owned by media tycoon Hary Tanoesoedibjo.
Sigit Harjojudanto, the second child, is more involved in sports, especially football. He founded the Arseto Solo FC in 1978 and was administrator for the Football Association of Indonesia. In the business field, he triumphed through the Arseto Group, which manages lines of business in the plantation, mining, and hospitality sectors.
Bambang Trihatmodjo, the third son, is also involved in various sectors from property, insurance, and automotive, to plantations. Bambang is the founder of PT Bimantara Citra Tbk. which recently changed its name to PT Global Mediacom Tbk. Large companies known to be under Bimantara Group include television stations, Plaza Indonesia, Asriland, Indonesia Air Transport, and Chandra Asri. Together with the rest of the Suharto clan, Bambang attempted to enter politics by joining Tommy's Berkarya Party in 2018.
Titiek, the fourth child, serves as a member of the House of Representatives, first with Golkar Party from 2014-2019 but to join the flailing Berkarya Party. Said to be fond of collecting works of art, she owns shares in several companies managed by her family. Her son, Didit from her marriage to Prabowo, is not interested in politics and chose a career as a designer. Mamiek Soeharto, the youngest, founded PT Manggala Kridha Yudha which is engaged in agriculture. She has a 3,000-hectare tourist park in Bogor and several plantations.