THE Parsindo (“Partai Swara Rakyat Indonesia”) political party has officially endorsed the candidacy of Hutomo Mandala Putra – also known as Tommy Suharto – for the 2019 Indonesian presidential election.
Tommy is the youngest son of former dictator Suharto who ruled the country for 32 years.
Parsindo secretary-general Ahmad Hadari, told Tempo magazine on Monday that Tommy has the blessing of the party – which will form a coalition with Suharto’s “Partai Berkarya” or Working Party. Tommy Suharto has had a colourful and privileged life, including owning a Lamborghini and running unsuccessfully in the 2011 presidential election.
In 2001, he was sentenced to 15 years’ jail for paying two hitmen to kill Syafiuddin Kartasasmita, a Supreme Court judge who had convicted him of graft. After operating his business empire from behind bars, Tommy was released from prison after serving only a fraction of his sentence.
The announcement of Parsindo’s endorsement came after a major event held by Suharto’s children, known as the Cendana family, at At-Tin Mosque in East Jakarta on Saturday. The event marked the 51st anniversary of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, signing the so-called Supersemar (“Surat Perintah Sebelas Maret” or the Decree of March 11) that transferred executive power to the head of the military, General Suharto.
This date in 1966 marked the beginning of the New Order, a military dictatorship that lasted until Suharto stepped down after mass protests in 1998. President Suharto rose to power against the backdrop of a bloody purge against the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), estimated to have killed 400,000 to one million people.
On Saturday, Jakarta gubernatorial candidates Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno were announced as honourable guests. Firebrand preacher Rizieq Shihab was allocated time to deliver a sermon where he urged Muslims to take up arms against the communist party should it re-emerge.
“If the PKI try to come back, are you ready to oppose them? Ready to take up arms? Ready to defend religion? Ready to defend the homeland?” Rizieq is a divisive figure who has risen in prominence due to his leadership of mass demonstrations against Jakarta’s ethnically Chinese, Christian governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. He was recently reported to police for claiming that Indonesia’s new banknotes contained communist symbols.
Paul Rowland, an independent political analyst based in Jakarta, said in 2016 that certain elements in Indonesian politics “would like to revive the communist threat because that effectively justifies the actions that were taken 50 years ago”.
Right-wing groups and the military have claimed there is a resurgence of the communist party in Indonesia in recent years, with crackdowns against activists for possessing merchandise or literature that purportedly endorses communism.
Also in attendance on Saturday was Prabowo, who ran unsuccessfully for president for the conservative Gerindra party against incumbent Joko Widodo in 2014.
Meanwhile, deputy gubernatorial candidate Djarot Saiful Hidayat, Ahok’s running mate, was verbally abused by protesters at the event.