Tommy Suharto – fall of daddy’s boy or image restructuring?

Hutomo Mandala Putra, better known as Tommy, is the epitome of corruption in south-east Asia. The son of former President Suharto, the dictator of Indonesia who was forced out of office in May, 1998, after international condemnation of his country’s bloodthirsty repression of the Maubere population of East Timor, has been the most visible sign of the corruption and nepotism which characterised his father’s regime.

The Suharto clan is estimated to have amassed a fortune in the region of 15 billion dollars. Suharto senior is accused of having siphoned 571 million dollars from the country but has conveniently been declared unfit to stand trial. The Suharto family had stakes in 564 Indonesian companies at the height on their influence.

Tommy is suspected of being involved in the murder of the judge who condemned him to 18 months’ imprisonment for corruption. The then president Abdurrahman Wahid refused to pardon him and on November 3rd last year, Tommy Suharto fled to an unknown whereabouts.

He is also suspected of being behind a spate of bombing attacks in the capital, Jakarta. However, in a country where the Supreme Court has already quashed his previous conviction, it is far from certain whether or not this is a staged case from which Hutomo Mandala Putra will emerge smiling.