Habibie is laid to rest


JAKARTA: Former Indonesian President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, who allowed democratic reforms and an independence referendum for Timor Leste following the ouster of dictator Suharto, was buried in a state funeral with full military honours.

Thousands of mourners lined the streets of Jakarta yesterday to watch the motorcade carrying the body of Indonesia’s third president to the Kalibata heroes’ cemetery.

Many called out the name of the man whose presidency was the shortest in modern Indonesian history but was transformative.

President Joko Widodo led the ceremony, attended by more than 700 politicians, government officials, foreign diplomats and public figures, including former presidents Megawati Soekarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“He is a true statesman, an inspirator, a scientist who believes that without love intelligence is dangerous, ” Widodo said in a speech.

“He is truly a role model for all of the nation’s children... surely Indonesia has lost one of its best sons.”

Prayers were said and as his body was lowered, mourners tossed flower petals into his grave, alongside that of his wife of 48 years, Hasri Ainun Habibie, a medical doctor who died in 2010.

A military band played a dirge.

Habibie died on Wednesday at Jakarta’s Gatot Subroto army hospital, where he had been undergoing treatment for heart problems since Sept 1. He was 83.

The government has declared three days of national mourning.

Foreign leaders and diplomats offered their condolences, including the US and British ambassadors in Jakarta.

Singapore Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean paid his respects after arriving in Jakarta for a working visit on Wednesday. He wrote on Facebook that Habibie will be remembered for leading Indonesia during a difficult period.

“My deepest condolences to the family and the people of Indonesia, ” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad wrote late Wednesday on Twitter.

“Truly his death was a great loss.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Twitter early Thursday: “He led the Republic of Indonesia at a time of massive change. His courage and vision during the period of reformation were appreciated in Australia.” — AP

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