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January 2008

Suharto (8 June 1921- ?? January 2008)

A career soldier who commanded a country.
John Roosa

Taciturn, reserved, reclusive, emotionless, Suharto ruled Indonesia for 32 years as a mystery man, a dictator who presented himself as a faceless, replaceable figure in an apolitical administration. His speeches were dull, forgettable affairs filled with mind-numbing bureaucratese, worn clichés, and pious homilies. There is not a single statement by which he is remembered today. If asked, Indonesians struggle in vain to recall some memorable phrase from him, while even the youth can quote Sukarno, the president he overthrew in 1965. Suharto has left a wordless memory.


I have signed up to the letter below. The contact to add your name is at the bottom of the letter. I have addended also a December, 2006 statement by the East Timorese government on the Cuban medical aid.

Prime Minister of Australia
Mr Kevin Rudd, MHR [also to other ministers]
January 2008

Dear Prime Minister

Re: Australian and Cuban education assistance to Timor Leste

We the following academics, writers, organisations and NGO workers observe these developments, on education assistance to Timor Leste:

• over 2002-2007 the number of University scholarships offered by the Australian Government to students from Timor Leste declined from 20 per year to 8 per year
• over 2003-2006 the number of medical training scholarships offered by the Government of Cuba to students from Timor Leste increased from 50 to 1,000

There are currently 800 students from Timor Leste studying medicine with the Cubans. This makes it probably the biggest aid program in medical training, per capita, in the world. Adult literacy training in Timor Leste is now also dominated by the Cubans.

So far there have been two Australian reactions (government, media, NGO) to Cuban programs in ‘our’ region. One was to ignore, snipe at or seek to undermine the Cubans, as perceived ‘competitors’. The other is to respond with a generosity that matches them. We urge your government to strengthen this latter path and MATCH the Cuban scholarship offer.


THE STAR, Sunday January 20, 2008

Layered masterpiece

Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom teaches law at Universiti Malaya and writes the fortnightly ‘Brave New World’ column in The Star’s Views pages.

A new English translation of one of Pramoedya Ananta Toer’s works reveals a story that is still as relevant today as it was when it was composed in the 1960s.

THE life of Indonesian journalist and author Pramoedya Ananta Toer is nothing short of awe inspiring. Despite the harshest of treatments, first by colonial Dutch authorities and then by Indonesian dictator Suharto, he lived his life with his ideals intact. Even more impressive is that he was able to express those ideals in beautiful works of literature created under unimaginably harsh conditions.

Imprisoned with hundreds of other political prisoners on Buru Island in 1965 by Suharto, Pramoedya faced living conditions that can only be described as brutal. Though “imprisoned” is perhaps a misleading term as there was no prison as such. They were simply dumped on an island from which there was no escape and were expected to survive on their own.


Pramoedya Ananta Toer's 1960 anti-racialist polemic and history of the Chinese in Indonesia is now available in an English translation by Max Lane.

Pramoedya's 195 page book is accompanied by 4 contemporary essays by other writers. These are:

"Pramoedya: Defiant to the end" by K.S. Jomo. Jomo is U.N. Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development and was Professor at the University of Malaya until late 2004. He was also founder of Wira Karya publishers, a Malaysian publisher which published the works of Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

"Prameodya Ananta Toer: In Memoriam" by Leo Ou-Fan Lee. Lee is Professor of Humanities at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

"Pramoedya, Racialism and Socialism" by Max Lane

"Strangers who are not Foreign" by Sumit Mandal. Mandal is an historian at the Universtii Kebangsaan Malaysia

The book is easiest ordered from Select Books in Singapore.


THE CHINESE IN INDONESIA by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

- with essays by K.S.Jomo. Leo Ou-Fan Lee, Max Lane and Sumit Mandal.

Cover graphic not yet available.


AROK OF JAVA by Pramoedya Ananta Toer



SOCIAL SCIENCES IN INDONESIA edited by Vedi Hadiz and Daniel Dhakidae



The Authors

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This blog is aimed to foster serious discussion on international and asian affairs.