Headline September 24, 2019/ '' ' PRESIDENT B. J. HABIBIE *FAREWELL ' '' : INDONESIA



BACHARUDDIN ''RUDY'' JUSUF HABIBIE led Indonesia's transition from dictatorship to democracy. Despite his close association with -

Suharto's authoritarian regime and opposition from many political and military quarters he proved, to be a very courageous and outstanding reformer. Whilst he struggled to secure popular support in power, he came to be seen as a father to his nation -

A G20 country of 260 million people [the fourth largest population in the world], with the largest Muslim population and one of the most diverse -

With 17,000 islands and more than 700 languages. He was an influential advocate for human rights, including minorities - and helped save the life of a Pakistani national on death row.

Habibie passed away on September 11 at the age of  83.

The people of Indonesia and friends around the world will miss the twinkle in his eye, his crooked smile, and his generosity of spirit. Others might well draw lessons from how much he managed accomplish in his short term as President of Indonesia.

Bapak [the Indonesian word for ''father'' that is also used as honorific for a senior man] Habibie and I  first met on January 9, 2015. He had just returned from Germany where he spent some part of each year.

On hearing that the new British Ambassador was a Muslim, he invited me to join him for Friday prayers and lunch.

Over the next four-and-a-half years, we saw each other regularly, discussing political developments in Indonesia, the U.K. and beyond, sharing ideas on how to promote human rights, tolerance, pluralism, and educational progress, and exchanging our favorite foods - he particularly loved my wife's English trifle and cakes.

As president, Habibie struggled to secure legitimacy in his own right. But in just 17 months, he set Indonesia off on its post-authoritarian period of reformasi [reformation].

He instigated unpopular economic reforms to stabilise the economy, apologised for past human right abuses, liberalised Indonesia's press and political party laws, agreed to presidential term limits, freed political prisoners, strengthened women's rights, lifted discriminatory policies against the Chinese minority -

Reduced the role of military in politics, instituted regional autonomy to counter secessionist voices in the archipelago and oversaw genuinely peaceful, free and fair parliamentary elections in 1999.

With a succession of post-reformasi presidents struggling to deliver progress. Habibie's short record began to look increasingly impressive, and in recent years he came to be revered as ''father of the nation.''

He was regularly consulted by Indonesia's  political leaders as they looked to navigate the challenges facing the country.

At our first meeting, we attended Friday prayers. Habibie was mobbed at a local mosque by well-wishers seeking his blessing. The sentiment followed him wherever he went in Indonesia.

Over lunch that day, he explained why democracy was suitable for Muslim societies. He saw the freedom to debate ideas and for citizens to choose their leaders as entirely compatible Islamic values.

And he was at pains to point out that Indonesia was not a ''Muslim country'', rather a home for all Indonesians whether Muslim or not.

In 2016, Habibie courageously declared his opposition to the death penalty at a time when President  Joko ''Jokowi'' Widodo had restarted executions as part of ''war against drugs''.

In July, I visited Bapak Habibie and discussed the case of a  Pakistani national, Zulfiqar Ali. His case had been brought to my attention by a British NGO, Reprieve. Ali was on death row for drugs-related crime, almost certainly as a result of miscarriage of Justice.

With Ali listed for execution, Habibie wrote to the president appealing for mercy. At the last minute, Ali was pulled from the line-up facing the firing squad.

I visited Bapak Habibie in hospital the night before departing Jakarta, having concluded my term of office.

As always with visitors, he found the energy to smile, reminisce, share news and to wish us well on the next phase of our journey. He talked factually, without complaint, about his ailments. I promised to visit him in Germany this winter.

Unfortunately that was not to be.

Habibie was buried on September 12, in Jakarta's Kalibata Heroes Cemetery beside his beloved wife, Dr. Ainun. He is survived by his sons IIham Akbar Habibie and Thareq Kemal Habibie and six grandchildren.

The World Students Society most respectfully thanks the author [from whose work we extracted the research] Moazzam Malik, who was the British Ambassador to Indonesia, Timor Leste and ASEAN from 2014 to 2019.

With most respectful dedication to the Great People of Indonesia, Students, Professors and Teachers, and then the world.

See Ya all on Facebook, prepare and register for Great Global Elections on The World Students Society : wssciw.blogspot.com and Twitter !E-WOW! - the Ecosystem 2011:

''' Monuments & Memoriam '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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