Suharto, Siti (1923–1996)

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Suharto, Siti (1923–1996)

First lady of Indonesia. Name variations: Ibu Tien. Born Siti Hartinah in Solo, Central Java, on August 23, 1923; died of a heart attack at the military hospital in Jakarta on April 28, 1996; marriage arranged by family to General Thojib N.J. Suharto (later president of Indonesia), in 1947; children: three daughters and three sons, including daughter Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, known as Tutut (b. 1948); daughter Siti Hadiati Harijadi, known as Titik (b. 1958); and sons Sigit (b. 1951); Hutomo Mandala Putra, known as Tommy (b. 1961); Bambang Trihatmodjo (b. 1952).

Siti Suharto worked side-by-side with her husband Major General Thojib N.J. Suharto during Indonesia's fight for independence from Dutch rule in 1945. When the Republic of Indonesia was established in 1950, Sukarno was its first president. In 1968, with the country in chaos, General Suharto became president, some say "benevolent despot," and remained so for 32 years.

Throughout her tenure as first lady of Indonesia, Siti Suharto stayed out of politics, except on one issue. Despite being a traditional Muslim wife, she adamantly opposed polygamy, the practice of allowing men to have more than one wife. Siti led a women's organization that pushed through a law making it illegal for a Muslim man in Indonesia to add a second wife without permission from his first wife.

President Suharto became very rich during his reign. Siti, known as Ibu Tien, was sometimes derided by Indonesians as "Madame Tien Percent" for taking a cut, "but at least she tried to curb the greed of her rapacious brood," wrote Melinda Liu in Newsweek. After her death in 1996, Suharto lost the will to rule and the will to control his children. They enriched themselves on a grand scale.


Liu, Melinda, with Ron Moreau. "Always the Best Revenge," in Newsweek. June 1, 1998.

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