APSN Banner

Many come to say their farewells to Gus Dur

Straits Times - July 28, 2001

Enrique Soriano and Devi Asmarani – Deposed and dejected, Mr Abdurrahman is helped down the stairs of the presidential palace on Thursday before catching a flight to the US for medical treatment.

But former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid's last day at the Istana on Thursday was marked instead by heartfelt farewells from supporters and journalists.

He received hundreds of visitors, including members of Nahdlatul Ulama – the Muslim group he headed for 15 years – activists, war veterans, old friends, and actors. Some appeared to be in tears after they said goodbye to him and his family.

En route to the airport, Mr Abdurrahman stops briefly to address his supporters. The local and foreign press were also inside the Istana compound, waiting for a chance to get in.

A group of Indonesian journalists walked up to palace security officers and said that they too wanted to pay their respects to Mr Abdurrahman and say good-bye. After some negotiations, the officers agreed. As it turned out, these journalists were not there just for the story. They put aside their cameras and notebooks as they lined up to say their farewells. One kissed Mr Abdurrahman's hand and others hugged him.

Said the ousted leader's second daughter Zanuba "Yenni" Arifah Chafsoh: "I'm very heartened by this. It shows that a lot of people still love Gus Dur." The former president had initially refused to vacate the palace voluntarily, saying his impeachment was illegal.

But on Wednesday night, Ms Yenni told reporters that her father had accepted what had happened as "God's will" although he believed that he was still 'legally and morally' the country's president. She also thanked the nation on behalf of her family and apologised for mistakes that might have been made in his 21 months in office.

En route to the airport, Mr Abdurrahman stopped at the Monas Square in front of the Palace to address 1,500 supporters. The crowds waved banners saying "Gus Dur, I love you", and shouted "Bon Voyage" and "Viva Gus Dur". They also held prayers for the former Muslim cleric. He promised his supporters, who included student activists and NU followers, that he would "continue his struggle to uphold democracy".

Mr Abdurrahman flew to the US where he was scheduled to undergo medical checks at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He was accompanied by 13 people on the trip, including his wife, two daughters, private doctors, assistants and bodyguards. Indonesian military chiefs were among those who saw the family off at the airport.