With the death of former President Sukarno of Indonesia, President Suharto, who succeeded him, becomes one of the most important political figures in Asia.
With the death of former President Sukarno of Indonesia, President Suharto, who succeeded him, becomes one of the most important political figures in Asia. He leads a nation of almost 105,000,000 people, predominantly Muslim.
Former President Sukarno for more than 20 years ruled his country and had the intense loyalty of his people until he was dismissed from power, accused of complicity in an attempted communist coup, and also of gross mishandling of the nation's economic affairs.
Since he took office, President Suharto has proved a leader with the ability to steer his country form the brink of civil war and bankruptcy onto the paths of peaceful existence, and even the promise of future solvency.
President Suharto was sworn in as Acting President in March 1967, by the supreme policy-making body of the State, the People's Consultative Congress.
A former General, he was always a convinced anti-Communist and became Army Minister and Chief of Staff 15 days after the abortive Communist coup in October 1965.
In March, 1966, after a wave of street demonstrations by students demanding the removal of left-wing Ministers, Suharto stepped in again and was given full power by President Sukarno to restore order in Indonesia.
He arrested 14 Government leaders, including Foreign Minister Dr. Subundrio--who was later condemned to death.
Suharto then became Chairman of a five-man Presidium in the Indonesian Cabinet.
Dr. Sukarno, after more than 20 years of popular rule, was called before the Indonesian Parliament in 1966 to answer for his actions in the attempted communist coup of the previous year.
The main accusation against him was complicity in the coup, but also involved was gross mishandling of the economy over a number of years.
Ultimately he was dismissed from power,an his title, "President for Life" taken away.
Suharto became President. But he faced the danger of civil war, for Dr. Sukarno was a national hero and commanded the intense loyalty of Indonesians, particularly East Java. He overcame this threat.
Another massive problem he faced on taking office was the country's near bankruptcy. Debts totalled more than 2,000 million U.S. dollars (834 million sterling).
With the help of able economic advisers, much has ben done to overcome the serious inflation and also the chronic rice shortage which marred the latter years of Sukarno's rule.
Indonesia has also managed to gain official ownership of the former Dutch territory of West Irian--half the jungle-clad island of New Guinea. In 1969 the United Nations General Assembly gave its sanction for West Irian to become part of Indonesia.
On the international scene, President Suharto has succeeded in placating several countries waiting impatiently for Indonesia to begin repaying her staggering debts.
He has also set the seal on a new era of friendship between Indonesia and Malaysia following the years of military confrontation in the Sixties. President Sukarno had launched the aggressive policy against the Malaysian Federation on its creation in 1963.
The confrontation situation cooled in 1966, mainly due to Suharto's efforts, based on mutual interests. These included a common religion--Islam; an ethnically related people; and a similar language.
It is a measure of President Suharto's present security in power that he sent the Deputy Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces, General Bean, to Blitar, East Java in June 1970, to sea deposed President Sukarno buried with full honours as a national hero.