Suharto

Suharto's reputation, alas, is now one of corruption and vindictiveness. Twas not always so,
writes Tam Dalyell [further to the obituary by Derek Davies, 28 January].

In the autumn of 1965 Ted Short, Lord Glenamara as he now is, government chief whip, selected me as a member of the all-party defence delegation to Sarawak, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. I formed the view that Britain was on a hiding to nothing in pursuing its policy of "Confrontasi" against Indonesia. So, in the Whit recess of 1966, through the good offices of Suryo-Di-Puro, the Indonesian chargé d'affaires in London, I went, with Colin Jackson, MP for Brighouse and Spenborough, and my wife on a private visit. (We cleared it with the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, who said: "Yes, I'm glad that you are going, provided you understand I can disown you if necessary.")

We were taken to the sandbagged army headquarters outside Jakarta, where, sitting behind a trestle table, with pictures behind him of six senior generals recently brutally murdered by the PKI, was a soldier in uniform who might have been an officer cadet at Sandhurst, so young did he look. Jackson and I, accompanied by John Cambridge, then the Head of Chancery at the British Embassy, were the first white politicians Suharto had encountered; he was very nervous, and obviously traumatised by what had happened to his colleagues. Pointing to the pictures on the wall of the bunker, he said he would probably be joining them, since he had escaped a similar fate only by luck and mistaken identity.

Later in that visit, when we were invited to a hugely extended breakfast with President Sukarno in the Merdeka Palace, I told him of our meeting 48 hours previously with his young general, Suharto. Sukarno waved his hand dismissively and said he hardly knew who Suharto was and that he was a man of little consequence.

Three years later, in 1969, I was a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation to Indonesia led by John Cronin, MP for Loughborough. We went to the Merdeka Palace again where, looking at Sukarno's treasures, Suharto greeted me with the words: "The surroundings are rather different from the last time you saw me!" Over dinner, he talked movingly of wanting to be a conciliator, to heal the murderous events of 1965 (where Muslims had slaughtered some 750,000 adherents of the Communist Party).

The seriousness of his claim to be a healer was confirmed to us separately by Ali Sadikin, then the very powerful governor of Jakarta; General Pangabeam, the head of the army; and Aurora Selmanjuntak, librarian of the Indonesian parliament. I don't think they were expressing favourable opinions of Suhato to us because they had to. Only later did his regime go sour. In the second half of the 1960s it was full of promise.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee