Fri, 05 Dec 2003

If I were Tutut Soeharto

Kornelius Purba, Staff Writer, The Jakarta Post Jakarta,

Read my lips! That will be the theme of my presidential campaign next year. I made up my mind about the theme when I walked to my father's house in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

My father Soeharto smiled broadly when we met for breakfast on Thursday morning. Showing me the headlines of several newspapers on my plan to run for the presidency next July, he then kissed my forehead and said, "Restore the honor of our nation, which has been ruined by the stupid reformists."

He then said he saw me appearing on private television. "My little girl (actually, I'm a grandma), how proud your mom would be if she was alive," he whispered with tears in his eyes.

"Long Live Soeharto!" and "Tutut for President!" the supporters of our newly-established PPKB (Concern for the National Functional Group) shouted when my friend Gen. R. Hartono announced the party's plan to nominate me as its presidential candidate.

"Go to hell Soeharto!" the students chanted five years ago, a few days before my father's fall on May 21, 1998. Thank God! After five years, now many people remember the good things about my father's government: We provided affordable foodstuffs.

I can understand how the non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or those who boasted to be champions of democracy, are very upset with my political plan. They could say that my emergence endangers democracy or the establishment of civil society. But the reformists should blame themselves, because millions of ordinary people need cheap rice now rather than tons of gold in the next century.

Who can deny now that my father deserves the title Father of Development? Ask people in the street whether the security and economy under President Megawati Soekarnoputri now is better than under my father's. I swear they will answer: Everything was much better under my father's leadership.

How about corruption, human rights abuses and democracy? Five years ago, people described my father and his children as "mega corruptors". People are free to say anything about my family. But just a small reminder: How about the rumors that Megawati's son is involved in the selling of state land in Kemayoran?

Don't you believe that I could rule the country better than Megawati? In terms of education, both of us were university drop outs. I used to manage so many companies -- the economists can say anything about these companies -- and don't forget, if I did not build the Jakarta toll road what would have happened to Jakartans? Before becoming president, Megawati's experience was basically handling gas stations.

We share the same birthday and place of birth. Megawati was born in Yogyakarta on Jan. 23, 1947. I was born on Jan. 23, 1949 in Yogyakarta. Her father is called the founding father while mine is the father of development.

I don't want to dispute allegations of corruption regarding my family. During my father's tenure, officials marked up costs to build bridges, but the bridge now stands. And now? Projects like bridges remain on paper, and the prices are still marked up. Foreign investors, from Japan, the U.S. and Europe invited my family to join their business. For businessmen corruption was actually not a serious issue as long as they could still profit.

Honestly speaking I am rich, but because I worked hard for it. My siblings and myself are ready to proffer our riches to develop the nation. The amount is very significant. But remember, we give the money as proof of our love to the nation. It has nothing to do with the corruption allegations.

Even my brother Tommy, I am sure, is ready to do his best to serve the nation, of course after his release from the prison. My youngest brother has good instinct. After being sentenced for 15 years in a murder case, he refused to appeal to higher courts. He intends to directly send his appeal to the President. If I was elected president next year, what I should do with him?

Now, I have decided to run for the presidency. First of all my father will be my most trusted advisor. Millions of people miss him. I will ask him to campaign for the party. Perhaps the doctors, who claimed in public that it was very unlikely that he could speak fluently again, would faint when they hear him exclaim, "Long live me!"

When I am elected as the country's sixth president, my first program will be to buy cheap rice for the people and provide jobs. I do not need to go in to detail, but I would follow my father's steps in eradicating crime and in handling antigovernment activists. We need democracy, but ordinary people need far more.

I would not allow other foreign leaders to dictate me, not even Australian Prime Minister John Howard. How about U.S. President Bush? My father believes Bush would praise me as a champion of democracy if I quickly offered him business opportunities for oil or gas companies from Texas.