Indonesia: Vengeance with a Smile

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Wavering General. While the slaughters went on around the country, Sukarno and the military were gingerly beginning their delicate dance for power in Djakarta. Quite naturally, the army looked for leadership to General Nasution, its Minister of Defense and highest ranking officer.

Nasution wavered. The murder of his daughter had left him profoundly shocked. One day he would demand that Sukarno outlaw the P.K.I, or resign, the next declare his undivided loyalty to the "Great Leader of the Revolution." "General Nasution," observes one leading politician, "is the Hamlet of Indonesia. He believes he is destined to save the country. But he vacillates in a moment of crisis."

Nasution understood all too well that the army could not simply throw Sukarno out of office, for the Bung had remained a hero to millions of Indonesians. It was Sukarno, after all, who proclaimed independence in 1945, and Sukarno again who made Indonesia a name among the nonaligned nations by sponsoring the Bandung Conference in 1955. His pretty girl friends, fancy uniforms, lavish palaces and expensive monuments are a salve for a people whose colonial masters called them "ignorant, dirty natives."

Part of his hold on Indonesia is mystical. In a land that believes fervently in spirits, sorcerers and prophets, he has become a genuine folk hero, identified in Java with a 14th century Prime Minister who built a great empire, and in Bali with Vishnu, the god of rain. Many of his countrymen believe that Sukarno is blessed with kesaktian, a supernatural magic power that protects him from evil and makes him superhuman. Palace servants used to sell bottles of his bath water to peasants, who hoped that by drinking it they would inherit some of his magic.

Double Six. Sukarno believes in some of the hocus-pocus himself. He always hides on his birthday, the sixth of June, because it is an unlucky number ("double six"). This year obviously was the worst of all. His birthday was 6/6/66. Long before the dreaded double double six, however, Sukarno's luck had run out. He made his biggest mistake in February. He fired Nasution as Defense Minister and brought in two proCommunists to take his place. In the confusion that followed, the army had to come up with a new leader to fight the Bung. It chose Suharto.

Lieut. General Suharto, 48, is a stocky (5 ft. 6 in., 150 Ibs.) professional officer with wavy black hair, alert brown eyes, and an open, almost innocent face. He never had more than a high school education. At the time of the coup, he was virtually unknown outside the army. Whereas Sukarno has had at least six wives and seven children, Suharto has only one wife and six children. Sukarno drove around in a motorcade of screaming sirens (which Djakartans refer to as his "mating call"), while Suharto went about his duties in a Japanese Jeep. Suharto was more than the President had bargained for.

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