Dear members and friends,
Indonesia’s third president, BJ Habibie has died, aged 83.
An aeronautical engineer, he became president after the fall of President Suharto in 1998.
He was only in office for two years and was seen by many Indonesians as ‘out-of-touch’ and thus unpopular. Yet he was the great reformer, freeing-up the nations media, stabilising the then collapsing rupiah currency, and introducing free elections.
He also granted East Timor self-determination rights, and was responsible for establishing ‘regional autonomy’ and decentralised government throughout Indonesia. This was quite remarkable and the impact of this decision is still being felt today.
Pak Habibie held a strong view – that he related to me, when I was privileged to meet him over a three hour conversation in his home in 2013 – that his ‘duty’ at that time was to ‘build a just, open and democratic society’ following the years of the ruthless dictatorship of president Suharto.
In some respects Habibie’s greatest ‘weakness’ was his intelligence: An incredibly clever and articulate thinker, Habibie was perhaps too advanced for most people; including me. He found it difficult to work at a level that was connected to the common person. Yet, he was in every respect a visionary with a brilliant mind.
The Indonesia that Australia works with today, has much to do with the reforms of this man in his short two years as Indonesia’s third president.
With kindest regards