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Video shows tender goodbye between dying former Indonesian president and Timor-Leste leader

The Guardian - September 13, 2019

Kate Lyons – The first president of Timor Leste has paid a touching visit to the bedside of the Indonesian president who granted the region a referendum on independence in 1999, before his death on Wednesday night.

A video circulating on social media shows Xanana Gusmao, who became president of Timor Leste after the country achieved independence in 1999, visiting BJ Habibie in hospital in Jakarta.

An apparently emotional Gusmao speaks quietly to Habibie before kissing him on the forehead. Habibie then reaches out and embraces Gusmao, who lays his head on Habibie's chest.

The 83-year-old Habibie had been suffering from heart failure, his son Tariq Kemal Habibie told Metro TV late on Wednesday.

After his death, Gusmao sent a wreath of flowers in honour of the former president, calling Habibie a "big brother" and saying: "Timorese people will remember you forever."

The emotional moment between the former leaders comes just a few weeks after the 20th anniversary of East Timorese independence, which came after the referendum.

Habibie became president of Indonesia in 1998, taking over from General Suharto, who had ruled the world's most populous Muslim majority country with an iron fist for 32 years.

Habibie held power for just 17 months but in an abrupt change to long-held policy, he agreed to the referendum for the people of former Portuguese colony East Timor, which had been annexed in 1976 following an invasion by Indonesian troops in December 1975.

The decision to allow the people a referendum was hugely controversial and the vote unleashed a wave of violence.

It also paved the way for Gusmao, who was a former resistance leader with East Timor's Falintil forces and had been incarcerated in Cipinang prison for seven years, to be released from prison later that year.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/13/video-shows-tender-goodbye-between-dying-indonesian-pm-and-timor-leste-leader