As Indonesia starts its week of mourning after Suharto's death on Sunday, two motives - one positive and the other darker - may be at work behind the request by many political leaders to forgive the former strongman. Indria Samego, a researcher with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said local tradition was a strong reason for the feeling of sympathy that arose during Suharto's last days. 'To forgive old people or the dead is very important in our way of life, and is very much part of the Javanese culture and beliefs,' he said. 'We believe that if you forgive, you will also be forgiven and your spiritual life is enhanced.' Dr Samego said the call by Amien Rais, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, to absolve Suharto was a good example of the depth of this belief. 'It was a remarkable change by Amien Rais,' he said. Mr Rais was a leading figure among those looking to make Suharto accountable for the crimes of his 32-year rule, characterised by brutal military force and widespread state corruption. Daniel Sparingga, sociologist and lecturer at Surabaya's Airlangga University, said the calls for Suharto to be forgiven had to be viewed in the national context as a collective wish to leave behind a murky past. 'It represents a collective conscience on how Indonesian people perceive the past. They would like to send a strong message: let the past be,' he said. 'What was done during the Suharto era was done collectively. It implicated so many people. It cannot be limited to Suharto.' However, Kristiadi, deputy director at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, argued that the wish to forgive could also mask some politicians' attempt to gain immunity for past crimes. 'If Suharto is forgiven, it would be difficult to punish anyone else that was part of his regime. They could just say that they were following orders,' said Dr Kristiadi. 'It would be like offering a political amnesty to many people,' he added, without mentioning any names. Indonesia's political and economical apparatus is still crammed with Suharto's cronies, and the country is ranked by Transparency International among the world's most corrupt.