Suharto allegedly learned Dutch during his service in their army. After Indonesia achieved its independence, Suharto became a general in the Indonesian Armed Forces, and later the president of the country.
This day in 2008 marked the death of Indonesian statesman Suharto. He was the President of Indonesia for over 30 years, and for a while he was the Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement. Suharto’s rule had decidedly authoritarian characteristics, and was often accused of corruption.
Suharto was born on the Indonesian island of Java, at a time when the area was still under Dutch colonial rule (1921). It is a common practice on Java that people have only one name (without a surname), so Suharto had only one name, just like his predecessor – Sukarno.
It is interesting to note that young Suharto joined the Dutch armed forces, more precisely the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (Dutch: Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger), in 1940. Suharto allegedly learned Dutch during his service there. However, the East Indies Army capitulated to the Japanese in 1942, and Suharto became part of the police forces that were organized under Japanese patronage. He became a military commander towards the end of World War II, and soon received the rank of lieutenant colonel.
After Indonesia achieved its independence, Suharto became a general in the Indonesian Armed Forces. In 1967 he replaced the left-wing Sukarno as the President of Indonesia.
In contrast to Sukarno, President Suharto opened his country up towards the West, but his reign was characterized by severe corruption scandals. Some media estimated that Suharto and his family re-routed 15-35 billion dollars into their own pockets during his time in power. In 1998 he resigned as president, and died in Jakarta on this day in 2008, aged 86.