Indonesia's former president Suharto dead

Former president Suharto, hailed as the father of development by some Indonesians during his 32 years in power and accused of corruption and rights abuses by others, died on Sunday after a long illness.

He was 86. He died in hospital after lapsing into a coma and suffering multiple organ failure.

“On behalf of this country, the people, the government and me personally, I would like to say our deep condolences on the death of Mr Haji Muhammad Suharto and I call on all the people of Indonesia to pray for him,” President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in comments broadcast on Elshinta radio.

Members of Suharto’s family had gathered late on Saturday night at the Pertamina hospital in Jakarta where he was being treated after his health suddenly deteriorated.

“We, the whole family, thank everyone who has prayed for our father,” said Suharto’s eldest daughter Siti Hadijanti Rukmana, also known as Tutut, sobbing as she addressed a press conference at the hospital.

Mardjo Soebiandono, the head of the medical team who had treated Suharto, told the press conference that Suharto had “peacefully passed away” at 6.10am GMT.

Suharto had been in critical condition in hospital since January 4 suffering from heart, lung and kidney problems.

Suharto, accused by critics of amassing a multibillion-dollar fortune during his rule of the world’s most populous Muslim nation, had suffered from bouts of ill health since being swept from power in 1998 during mass unrest.

The former general’s rule was marked by rapid economic growth and political stability, but marred by massacres, human rights abuses and endemic corruption.

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 an anti-communist purge in the months that followed.

He was forced to step down in 1998 as the Asian financial crisis sparked economic and social chaos, leading to calls for greater democracy.
- Reuters

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