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Jakarta Post

Different names for the same thing: New Order still lingers 22 years after Soeharto’s fall

  • Margareth S. Aritonang

    The Jakarta Post

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Jakarta   /   Thu, May 21, 2020   /  02:29 pm
I quit: Indonesia's second president Soeharto reads a statement of resignation at the State Palace, while vice president BJ Habibie (second left) looks on. Soeharto officially transferred his post to Habibie on May 21, 1998, before chief justice Sarwata, journalists and several Cabinet ministers, including his eldest daughter Siti Hardijanti Rukmana (right), who was the social services minister, chief security minister and armed forces commander Gen. Wiranto (second right), justice minister Muladi (third right) and state secretary Saadilah Mursjid (fourth right).(JP/Alex Rumi)

Twenty-two years ago, on May 21, history recorded the fall of an authoritarian leader in Indonesia. Days of nationwide riots led to the ouster of the military-backed dictator Soeharto, the country’s second president, who had held a tight grip on power for 31 years. The Reform era had finally arrived, but with a hefty price tag: thousands of people lost their lives and many women of Chinese descent had to endure the crippling effects of gang rape. Prodemocracy activists were kidnapped – some returned, alive and well, while others are still missing until today. But the “Smiling General” was gone, and in his place, a sliver of hope. Free from Soeharto’s New Order regime at last, so the people thought. The topic has become a matter of public debate every year since then, but especially since President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo took office i...