The Japanese widow of Indonesia’s founding president Sukarno says she will never forgive his successor Suharto for his repression, and has likened him to Pol Pot.
Suharto seized power from Sukarno in 1965-66 and ruled with an iron fist for another three decades.
“I don’t want to lash out at a dead man but I cannot forgive Suharto,” Ratna Sari Dewi Sukarno, Sukarno’s third wife said.
“He was Indonesia’s Pol Pot,” she said, referring to the late leader of Cambodia’s genocidal Khmer Rouge.
Dewi, a former bar hostess born as Naoko Nemoto, married Sukarno at age 19 in 1962 after he was charmed by her on a state visit to Tokyo.
After Sukarno died under house arrest in 1970, she returned to Japan where she has become a television personality and runs a jewellery and cosmetics business.
Despite Indonesia’s economic progress under Suharto, his tenure was marked by repression, from the killings of at least 500,000 communists and their sympathisers from 1966, to invading East Timor and quelling separatist movements in Aceh and Papua.
Dewi blamed Suharto both for the death of her husband, “the man who declared independence and became Indonesia’s first president,” and for the mass killings around the country.
“Although he had a soft face, he could be cruel and heartless at the same time,” she said.
“You could not tell what he was like on the inside.
“What he said and what he did were two different things.”
She scolded Suharto for not making court appearances late in his life to answer corruption charges, citing illness.
“Even today, many Indonesians suffer from that legacy and the income gap continues to widen,” Dewi said.
“He ended his life living among friends,” she said.
“I think he was a very lucky man.”