Saturday, June 5, 2010

Profile - Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono became Indonesia's first directly-elected president in October 2004.

His first year in office was marked by major earthquakes - including the one that caused the Indian Ocean tsunami which killed more than 130,000 people in Aceh - an outbreak of polio, avian flu and more bombs in Bali.

He courted unpopularity by cutting subsidies on fuel - allowing the price to rise - but was then able to raise the subsidies again when global prices fell.

A healthy pay rise for civil servants, a negotiated end to the long-running separatist conflict in Aceh and avoidance of the worst effects of the global financial crisis helped ensure he ended his first term with a large groundswell of support.

Mr Yudhoyono has also overseen cash handouts to millions of Indonesia's poor, and restored the country's rice self-sufficiency for the first time in two decades - ensuring price stability for the staple crop.

He is also credited with spearheading a crackdown by the independent Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, that has seen several high-profile figures prosecuted, including a relative of Mr Yudhoyono.

East Timor questions

The man dubbed "the thinking general" was born in 1949 in East Java.

The son of a retired army lieutenant, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono graduated from Indonesia's military academy in 1973.

Two years later Indonesian security forces invaded East Timor. As he rose through the ranks, Mr Yudhoyono completed several tours of duty in the territory. By the time of East Timor's violent transition to independence in 1999, he had been promoted to Chief of Territorial Affairs.

As such he would have reported directly to Gen Wiranto, the former head of the armed forces who has now been indicted for war crimes by a special tribunal in East Timor.

But there has never been any attempt to bring charges against Mr Yudhoyono.

His supporters say he was not part of the inner circle of military commanders accused of allowing the violence to spread.

Honorary award

In fact, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono never quite achieved the highest levels in the military to which he aspired.

His four-star general status was an honorary award given to him when he left the army to join the government of Abdurrahman Wahid in 2000.

He started as minister for mines but was soon promoted to chief minister for security and political affairs.

A year later he found himself in conflict with his boss. Facing impeachment, President Wahid asked Mr Yudhoyono to declare a state of emergency. Mr Yudhoyono declined, and promptly lost his job.

In March 2004, history repeated itself. Mr Yudhoyono, reappointed as senior political and security minister under President Megawati, stepped down after a very public spat with the president and her husband.

Being forced from office under successive presidents seems to have enhanced Mr Yudhoyono's reputation as a man of principle, willing to sacrifice his own ambitions for the values he believes in.

24 comments:

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