Symbolic shift of portraits as old icon ends in dustbin

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 May, 1998, 12:00am

As Indonesia changes, so too does the iconography of the state.

Although Mr Suharto did not foster a personality cult to compare with those of Mao Zedong or Saddam Hussein, he did promote his image.

A framed photograph of a stern-faced Mr Suharto was displayed in all public buildings alongside that of his vice-president of the day.

Jakarta newspapers yesterday showed pictures of citizens removing Mr Suharto's image from their walls, consigning his face to the bin almost as fast as the ex-president slipped from power after 32 years at the helm of the nation of 202 million.

The Indonesian Observer carried a picture of three people manhandling Mr Suharto's mugshot from a wall.

Mr Habibie, the erstwhile vice-president who took the top job on Thursday morning, remains in most rooms, but a fresh set of portraits will be needed bearing his new title, President of the Republic of Indonesia.

Just as the rapid change has left many Indonesians somewhat adrift in a new era, the switch has left the nation's picture sellers wondering what to do with all their outdated stock.

The student protesters, who helped push Mr Suharto from power, have also been quick to mount a visual assault on Mr Habibie, whom they regard as a Suharto stooge incapable of delivering reform.

After taunting riot police with banners of Mr Suharto complete with Hitler moustache or pirate's eye patch, the anti-establishment cartoonists have gone to work on their new target.

At the House of Representatives, which was still under student control yesterday, Habibie fliers were already doing the rounds.

One of the most popular depicted the diminutive Mr Habibie looking somewhat uneasy in his new role as head of state.

The shadow he cast was in the shape of a devil, eyes wide and mouth agape.

Written on the black form were the words 'Collusion, Corruption, Nepotism - The Shadow of Suharto'.

Clearly Mr Habibie is in for a rough ride from those still manning the barricades.