Indonesia's Government should be generously meting out all the compassion it can muster to the nation's tens of millions of people made poor by corruption and economic mismanagement. Instead, the individual receiving the most sympathy appears to be disgraced former president Suharto. President Megawati Sukarnoputri, whose father Sukarno was toppled by Suharto, floated the suggestion last week that corruption charges the former strongman was facing should be dropped. Although she has yet to make a decision and Parliament has the final say, some of the nation's foremost politicians have applauded such a move. Popular opinion, it would appear, supports Suharto, who is 80 and frail after three heart attacks, being exonerated. Why support for such a move has gained backing is beyond belief. Although no reliable surveys have been conducted on Indonesians in the street, given the poverty they endure despite huge amounts of international monetary assistance, it would be extremely unlikely they would welcome such a decision. Ms Megawati is adopting familial compassion in floating the idea. She says that the suffering of Sukarno, Indonesia's founding father who died in shame with criminal allegations hanging over him, should not be Suharto's fate. But the US$570 million (HK$4.4 billion) that Suharto is accused of embezzling while president is a mere fraction of the US$15 billion analysts allege he and his family have pilfered from public coffers. There is also the unknown fate of hundreds of thousands of people who disappeared during his 30 years of rule. During that time, ethnic Chinese were robbed of their culture, the political opposition was neutered and basic human rights and freedoms were trampled. Suharto's lawyers say he is too sick to answer the allegations. They cite examples such as his hospitalisation since December 17 for pneumonia as evidence of his frailty. The Suharto family is still immensely powerful, financially and politically. But Indonesia's leaders must not be blinded by its influence and money in determining their nation's future. If Indonesia is to fully emerge from Suharto's shadow, it must right the wrongs of his misrule - whether through a tribunal of reconciliation or a criminal court.