/ 13 January 2008

Doctor gives Suharto ’50-50 chance’

Indonesia’s former president Suharto, who ruled the country for more than three decades, is in a ”very critical condition” after almost all his organ functions failed, his doctor told a news conference on Sunday.

Mardjo Soebiandono, chief of the medical team treating the 86-year-old at a Jakarta hospital, said there was only a 50-50 chance that he could survive.

”We have gathered the family twice today to tell them about the possibility that the situation could get worse,” Soebiandono said. ”The condition of Mr Suharto is very critical.”

Earlier Suharto, who suffered multiple organ failure on Friday and has since been on a ventilator, was visited by friend and contemporary Lee Kuan Yew, now Singapore’s Minister Mentor.

Suharto was either sleeping or unconscious when Lee entered his room, according to former state secretary Moerdiono, who was also at Suharto’s bedside.

Moerdiono told reporters that Lee, accompanied by Suharto’s three daughters, had gone up to the former general to touch him.

Lee (84) flew in from Singapore especially to see Suharto, but left the hospital without talking to reporters. He was due to give a news conference later on Sunday.

While relations between neighbouring Singapore and Indonesia have often been strained over the years, Lee Kuan Yew and Suharto maintained close relations.

In his autobiography, Lee described Suharto, who was forced to step down in 1998 in the face of a student-led uprising, as ”a quiet man, courteous and punctilious on form and protocol”.

”He is not an intellectual, but he has the ability to select able economists and administrators to be his ministers” Lee wrote in his autobiography.

Lee appears to be the first foreign dignitary to visit Suharto in hospital.

Family members have gathered there as Suharto’s health deteriorated, while a ”who’s who” of Indonesian society, including relatives, government ministers, businessmen, religious leaders and military men flocked to pay their respects.

Suharto was taken to Pertamina hospital on January 4 suffering from anaemia and low blood pressure due to heart, lung and kidney problems. His health worsened on Friday when he was put on a ventilator.

Suharto came to power after an abortive coup on September 30 1965 that was officially blamed on the communist party. Up to 500 000 people were killed in anti-communist purges in the months that followed.

After Suharto quit office, he was charged with embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars of state funds, but the government later dropped the case due to his poor health.

He and his family deny any wrongdoing. – Reuters