Email Video of Xanana Gusmao embracing BJ Habibie in hospital bed shared after former Indonesian leader's death By In

East Timor resistance fighter's 'touching' farewell to former Indonesian president

East Timor resistance fighter's 'touching' farewell to former Indonesian president

East Timor resistance fighter's 'touching' farewell to former Indonesian president

East Timor resistance fighter's 'touching' farewell to former Indonesian president

East Timor resistance fighter's 'touching' farewell to former Indonesian president
East Timor resistance fighter's 'touching' farewell to former Indonesian president
  • 2019-09-12 15:45:01 4 days ago
  • views: 14,671
  • By: ABC News (AU)
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Video of Xanana Gusmao embracing BJ Habibie in hospital bed shared after former Indonesian leader's death

Posted September 13, 2019 01:00:30

East Timor's former President Xanana Gusmao made a heartfelt and emotional visit to farewell Indonesia's former president BJ Habibie in hospital, before he died in Jakarta on Wednesday night.

Key points:

  • The former Indonesian president died after experiencing heart problems
  • Mr Habibie agreed to grant East Timor a plebiscite on independence, which paved the way for Mr Gusmao's release from prison
  • Footage of the pair embracing in hospital is being shared on Twitter following Mr Habibie's death

Mr Habibie, 83, died after undergoing treatment for heart problems.

In a video circulating on social media, Mr Gusmao — seemingly in tears — is seen embracing Mr Habibie while sitting beside his hospital bed.

After a few quiet words, he kissed Mr Habibie's forehead and then buried his head on his chest.

Mr Habibie in turn took Mr Gusmao's head in his arms.

The vision, filmed on July 22, has attracted more than one million views on Facebook and Twitter.

It was Mr Habibie who, as Indonesia's first president after the fall of Suharto in 1998, agreed to grant East Timor a plebiscite on independence.

At the time, Mr Gusmao — a former resistance leader with East Timor's Falintil forces — had been incarcerated in Cipinang prison for seven years, since his capture by Indonesian forces in 1992.

President Habibie's decision to allow a referendum in 1999 helped pave the way for Mr Gusmao's eventual freedom later that year.

It is understood Mr Gusmao visited Mr Habibie at Jakarta's Gatot Subroto army hospital, sometime in the past few weeks, where the former Indonesian president was dying of heart failure.

After hearing news of Mr Habibie's death, Mr Gusmao sent a wreath saying "Timorese people will remember you forever".

There has been an outpouring of grief and condolences for Mr Habibie on social media, with many Indonesians praising his decision to grant East Timor its right to freedom.

Barely two weeks ago, East Timor's government opened a new bridge in Mr Habibie's name, on the anniversary of the independence referendum.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison shared his condolences for the former leader on Twitter.

"He led the Republic of Indonesia at a time of massive change," Mr Morrison said.

"His courage and vision during the period of reformasi were appreciated in Australia."

The Australian embassy in Jakarta today lowered its flag to half-mast, in tribute to the former Indonesian president.

The legacy of a 16-month term

Mr Habibie's presidency was as transformative as it was short.

He was president for only 16 months, taking office soon after Suharto's resignation in May 1998, and stepping down in September 1999.

But he ushered in sweeping reforms, not least of which was Indonesia's transition to free and democratic elections, a move to grant press freedoms, and a decision to release political prisoners.

It was during his first month as president — in June 1998 — that Mr Habibie announced he was prepared to offer East Timor special autonomy, after ruling out a referendum.

But growing unrest in East Timor in the wake of Suharto's demise, and international pressure led him to change his mind.

Seven months later — in January 1999 — he declared that East Timor could have independence if its people rejected autonomy within Indonesia.

When the vote finally took place in August 1999, an overwhelming 78.5 per cent of Timorese chose independence.

The decision shocked Indonesian military leaders, who had wrongly assumed the Timorese people would choose to remain part of Indonesia.

Going against John Howard

Mr Habibie later told the ABC that a letter from Australia's then Prime Minister John Howard had pushed him into acting quickly on independence for East Timor.

In December 1998 Mr Howard had written to Mr Habibie supporting a ten-year transition to independence, after a long period of self-autonomy first.

"I was angry reading his letter," Mr Habibie later said in an interview with the ABC in 2008.

The letter prompted him to make a snap decision to allow an independence vote within six months, the opposite of what Mr Howard was suggesting.

Thousands turn out for farewell

Mr Habibie was buried on Thursday, after a state funeral in Jakarta with full military honours.

Thousands of Indonesians lined the streets as the funeral cortege drove through central Jakarta to the Kalibata Heroes Memorial Park.

President Joko Widodo led the ceremony, attended by more than 700 politicians, government officials, foreign diplomats and public figures.

Dignitaries included former Presidents Megawati Sukarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"He is a true statesman, an inspirator, a scientist who believes that without love, intelligence is dangerous," President Jokowi said in a farewell speech.

"He is truly a role model for all of the nation's children … surely Indonesia has lost one of its best sons."

Mr Habibie was buried alongside his wife of 48 years, Hasri Ainun Habibie, a medical doctor who died in 2010.

The government has declared three days of national mourning.

ABC

Topics: world-politics, indonesia

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East Timor resistance fighter's 'touching' farewell to former Indonesian president