Asia-Pacific

Emotional footage emerges of BJ Habibie, Xanana Gusmao saying farewell

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The former Indonesian president allowed democratic reforms and an independence referendum for Timor-Leste.

Following the death of former Indonesian president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, footage has emerged of an emotional hospital visit from former Timor-Leste president and prime minister Xanana Gusmao.

The undated footage, shared on social media on Thursday, shows the two former leaders in a heartfelt embrace.

Responding to international criticism of Indonesia's occupation of Portugal's former colony of Timor-Leste, Mr Habibie surprised Indonesians by announcing in January 1999 a plan to hold an independence referendum.

Indonesian militias deployed terror tactics to intimidate people into voting for continued union, but Timor-Leste voted overwhelmingly to split from Indonesia.

Mr Habibie died aged 83 on Wednesday at Jakarta's Gatot Subroto army hospital, where he had been undergoing treatment for heart problems since 1 September. 

His unpopular presidency was the shortest in modern Indonesia's history, but was transformative.

Mr Habibie was tapped to lead Indonesia by Suharto as the military dictator's 32-year hold on power crumbled in May 1998 during a student uprising and a devastating economic crash.

It ended after only 16 months in October 1999 when he withdrew from contention in presidential elections.

Army officers lift the coffin of the Indonesian third President, Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie to transport his body to his funeral home.
Army officers lift the coffin of the Indonesian third President, Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie to transport his body to his funeral home.

An engineer educated in Indonesia, the Netherlands and Germany, Mr Habibie spent nearly two decades working for German aircraft maker Messerschmitt-Boelkow- Blohm, before returning to Indonesia in 1974 to help lead Suharto's campaign to industrialise the economy.

As president, Mr Habibie apologised for past human rights abuses and outlined an eight-point reform program "to build a just, open and democratic society."

He ordered the release of political prisoners, dismantled restrictions on the press and reformed politics to allow for free elections.

Former Indonesian President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie.
Former Indonesian President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie.
AAP

He lifted a three-decade-old ban on the speaking and teaching of Mandarin as part of an easing of discriminatory policies against ethnic Chinese that was instituted by Suharto after his anti-communist pogroms of 1965-66.

Despite his reforms, Mr Habibie was unable to master the political tumult unleashed by the student uprising.

He described the bloody riots that ended Suharto's dictatorship as "barbaric," further alienating students who feared he was betraying their democratic revolution and staged violent protests against his presidency.

BJ Habibie died after undergoing treatment at the RSPAD at the age of 83 years.
BJ Habibie died after undergoing treatment at the RSPAD at the age of 83 years.
AAP

A failure to prosecute a longtime friend over allegations of massive corruption undermined his campaign to stay in power. On October 20, 1999, Mr Habibie withdrew from upcoming presidential elections.

Parliament was already moving to elect a new head of state after politicians rejected his "accountability" speech on the successes and failures of his months in office. Born June 25, 1936, in the South Sulawesi town of Parepare, Mr Habibie was the fourth of eight siblings.

His father was of native Sulawesi descent and his mother a Javanese noblewoman from the ancient sultanate of Yogyakarta. His wife, Hasri Ainun Habibie, a medical doctor, died in 2010.

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