[Comment: Abdurrahman Wahid was a great man and a real Peacemaker. He was an Indonesian Muslim religious and political leader who served as the President of Indonesia from 1999 to 2001. His wisdom, common sense and wicked self-deprecating humour will be missed not only by Indonesians but by many who knew (about) him around the world. PmR]
Jakarta mourns loss of Gus Dur
December 31, 2009
JAKARTA: The first democratically elected president of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, died in hospital last night. He was 69.
Mr Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur, was practically blind, diabetic and had suffered several strokes.
"Gus Dur just passed away," said Lukman Edy from Wahid's National Awakening Party.
Chief nurse Buwahyuat at the Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital in Jakarta said Mr Wahid had been receiving treatment in the intensive care unit.
The exact cause of death was not immediately released.
A moderate Islamic scholar, Mr Wahid succeeded BJ Habibie as president in 1999 and was replaced by Megawati Sukarnoputri after being impeached in 2001.
Mr Wahid was criticised in office for his erratic leadership style and was sacked by the national assembly in 2001 amid unproven allegations of corruption and incompetence.
He defeated Ms Megawati to scoop the presidency in a parliamentary vote, even though her Democratic Party of Struggle put in the strongest showing in a general election earlier in 1999.
His commitment to democracy was not some lately acquired public relations device, as it appeared to be with Dr Habibie, but a profound, life-long commitment to creating a civic society in Indonesia.
That is how he ran Nadhlatal Ulama, the world's biggest Muslim organisation, and that is what prompted him to speak out on behalf of Indonesia's Chinese and Christian minorities.
Several key decisions in his presidency were evidence of his democratic commitment. Mr Wahid went to East Timor to apologise for Indonesia's past crimes there. He also made a huge public commitment by holding regular meetings, in Jakarta, with East Timor's leaders Xanana Gusmao and Jose Ramos Horta.
He also committed Indonesia to helping establish East Timor as a successful state.
Mr Wahid was also a long-time supporter of good relations with Australia. Although, there were elements of our East Timor diplomacy he did not like, for many years he was a friend of and frequent visitor to Australia. He made a clear, positive decision that it was in Indonesia's interests to repair the bilateral relationship, which is why he ultimately made his much delayed visit here.
He tried, without success, to prosecute members of the Suharto family for corruption. This would have been important in establishing a moral atmosphere for Indonesian politics.
Wahid was certainly eccentric and highly individualistic. Sometimes this was bad, sometimes good. It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine any of the other leaders of Jakarta's elite sacking General Wiranto because of human rights abuses in East Timor.
Similarly, Mr Wahid tried hard to establish civilian control over the military. He also pioneered, unsuccessfully, an approach to the separatist problems in Aceh and Irian Jaya based on dialogue.
In 1984 he withdrew NU from direct political activism and in 1991 founded instead the Democracy Forum. He refused to have anything to do with the late dictator Suharto's preferred Islamic political vehicle, the Association of Muslim Intellectuals, or ICMI, with which Dr Habibie was closely associated.
As a result Suharto tried to get Mr Wahid dislodged from NU leadership in 1994. He failed. It established Mr Wahid as a leading opponent of Suharto's authoritarianism.
Indonesia held its first direct presidential elections in 2004. They were won by Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.