28 January 2008

an era that was

In the few hours after Suharto's passing there was an explosion of comments, praises, criticisms, and apologies on the late strongman. In my late teens, I would not have cared for what Suharto was doing or not doing, but because he was definitely one of the most debated and the topic of long exams in my freshman's "Politics and Governments of Southeast Asia", it was imperative that we studied him. It was a course that was a requirement for graduation even though you were an Art student and would not damn care about some turmoil in a neighboring country. I remember the hours of researching for his speeches and any material that would give us an idea of the realities of Indonesian politics in those days. Those days we did not have the internet; we only had the dusty nooks at the Archives section of the library we considered as sacred as the places of worship that I and classmates went to. In our young minds, we reckoned that Suharto like Marcos or any friend of the USA for that matter were evil despots.

Today, in my ripe age of 'discernment' I find myself slow to criticise the man who to many was the 'Father of Development'. In those days, the realities were different. There was the 'Cold War' and the password for longevity was 'deterrence' and only 'deterrence'. This era has passed and we in SEA have a totally different set of problems post 'Cold War'. And with this passing, we should pray for a peaceful Indonesia and for the rest of SEA.