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Indonesia's Wahid back home, celebrating 61st birthday

Agence France Presse - August 4, 2001 (abridged)

Jakarta – Deposed Indonesian president Aburrahman Wahid turned 61 Saturday, 12 days after a humiliating impeachment by the national assembly cut short his tumultuous 21-month rule. Aides said Wahid was celebrating at home with family and friends over a meal of 'nasi tumpeng,' a traditional saffron rice cake used for birthdays in Indonesia.

"Mr Alwi Shihab [caretaker foreign minister] is here, relatives and some friends who know it's his birthday, about a dozen so far," Adhi Massardi, one of Wahid's spokesmen as president, told AFP.

It was the first day Wahid had woken up in his private residence in south Jakarta's Ciganjur area since his ouster and replacement by his deputy, Megawati Sukarnoputri, on July 23.

Wahid initially refused to leave the presidential palace, protesting that his dismissal by Indonesia's parliament was unconstitutional. He gave in three days later, citing his daughters' and doctors' fears that his rising blood pressure could bring on a third stroke, and travelled to the United States for medical tests.

Returning home Friday with a clean bill of health from doctors at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital, Wahid received several emotional welcomes as he vowed to keep fighting for democracy. Some 70 devotees greeted him at Jakarta's airport with flowers and Muslim prayer songs, hundreds were waiting at his Ciganjur home, and hundreds more supporters welcomed him with a rally and speeches at the city's independnece proclamation monument.

Late Friday thousands of loyalists flocked to the revered Muslim leader's home for an all-night recital of the Koran. "There were two to three thousand people here," Massardi said.

Wahid has pledged to lead a 'moral movement' from his Ciganjur home to uphold democracy and fight human rights violations. Stepping out of the airport's VIP terminal Friday, Wahid implored those who felt that democracy was not working or that human rights had been violated to "report to me."