Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Suharto crushes Time magazine for telling the truth?

We all know the canard about the propensity of bad things to happen to good people. Well, thanks to fate's eternal perversions, good things often seem to happen to perfectly terrible people, even deposed dictators. Case in point, former Indonesian dictator Suharto will be probably be $100 million richer than he already was because a magazine actually printed the truth.

Time magazine's Indonesian edition lost a $106 million defamation lawsuit by the family of the former dictator for alleging, perfectly truthfully, that the former dictator had embezzled an enormous fortune during his 32 year dictatorship. A spokesman for the Indonesian Supreme Court, which rendered the verdict, declared "the article and photographs hurt the image and pride of the plaintiff as a great retired army general and the former Indonesian president."

Which might be true, but the Indonesian government is seeking to recoup with one hand what it is trying to confiscate from Time with the other. Suharto himself has been charged with a number of crimes related to his record breaking kleptocracy, but the frail 86 year old has kept himself out of criminal court by pleading that he's too ill to stand trial. This excuse will not, apparently, grant him immunity from a civil suit by the government which seeks to recover $440 million in embezzled funds, and a further billion dollars in damages.

It is also worth noting that the Indonesian government, while ostensibly democratic since Suharto was overthrown, is still governed by and large by Suharto's former cronies. Their attempt to recoup stolen money is one thing, but it also tends to explain why Suharto hasn't been charged with offenses relating to the massacres that gained him so much notoriety. After all, the civil suit is simply business, but charging the old man with murder? Not on your life. Since the defamation lawsuit verdict was delivered by the Supreme Court, it's unclear what Time can do to contest the verdict at this point. With any luck, the government will win their case, or Suharto will finally kick the bucked, and his embarrassed family will simply decline to press for the award money.

Or not. Congratulations then, Suharto, on adding another $100 million bucks to your stash of ill gotten loot. It's almost a shame you'll be dropping dead before you can treat us to yet another outrage of this sort. Almost.

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