Former Indonesian President Habibie Dies at Age 83

Indonesians bury former president Habibie at state funeral

BJ Habibie, who oversaw Indonesia’s transition to democracy, dies

Former Indonesian president B.J. Habibie, who ushered in an era of democratic reforms after the downfall of long-time dictator Suharto, died on Wednesday at the age of 83 in Jakarta, his family and officials said.

Dr Habibie died on Wednesday at a Jakarta army hospital, where he had been undergoing treatment for heart problems since Sept 1.

An engineer educated in Indonesia and Germany, Habibie spent almost two decades working for German aircraft maker Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Blohm, rising to the position of vice president and director of applied technology when Suhato convinced him to return to Indonesia in 1974 to help lead a campaign to industrialize the economy.

Habibie was the third president of Indonesia, succeeding Suharto who had been forced to step down when Indonesia experienced turbulent times in 1997-1998.

Habibie's tenure as president only lasted for a little more than a year before his retirement from politics, but was marked by such democratic reforms as allowing the creation of political parties as well as an independence referendum for East Timor.

In a speech, current president Joko Widodo described Habibie as "a world-class scientist and the father of technology in Indonesia".

Countless numbers of mourners lined the streets of the funds, Jakarta, to look at the motorcade carrying the entire body of Indonesia's 3rd president to the Kalibata heroes' cemetery.

Habibie served just 17 months in office, withdrawing from the October 1999 presidential election amid the continuing protests.

In 1999, the people of East Timor voted for independence which triggered months of violence, necessitating the deployment of United Nations peacekeepers. "He gave us two options and now East Timor is a free of charge and impartial country". At the time Habibie paid a visit to Ani Yudhoyono during her hospitalization in Singapore prior to her death.

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (second right) at former Indonesian president BJ Habibie's funeral at the Kalibata Heroes Cemetery in Jakarta.

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

Born June 25, 1936, in the South Sulawesi town of Parepare, Habibie was the fourth of 8 siblings. "BJ Habibie spoke from confidence as well as conscience".

Habibie, concurrently ex-research and technology minister, is survived by his two sons: Ilham Akbar and Thareq Kemal.

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