Indonesia’s Habibie, president during transition to democracy, dies

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Former Indonesian president B. J. Habibie succeeded Suharto as Indonesia’s third president. (AFP/File photo)
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A son of Indonesia's former President B.J. Habibie, Thareq Kemal Habibie (C in black), leads to carry his father's coffin to home, at an army hospital morgue in Jakarta on September 11, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2019

Indonesia’s Habibie, president during transition to democracy, dies

  • Habibie, 83, had been suffering heart failure
  • Habibie succeeded Suharto as Indonesia’s third president only months after becoming his deputy

JAKARTA: Former Indonesian president B.J. Habibie, who came to power during the country’s turbulent transition to democracy after former strongman leader Suharto stepped down in 1998, has died, his son said on Wednesday.
Habibie, 83, had been suffering heart failure, Tariq Kemal Habibie told Metro TV.
An engineer by training, Habibie succeeded Suharto as Indonesia’s third president only months after becoming his deputy, just as the country sank into a spasms of rioting and economic upheaval.
He held power for 17 months until the late Abdurrahman Wahid became president and his tenure was marked by his agreeing to a referendum for the people of former Portuguese colony East Timor.
Indonesian troops invaded in December 1975 and the following year annexed East Timor as its 27th province.
But Habibie abruptly changed longheld policy in January 1999 and said East Timor could have independence if it rejected autonomy within Indonesia. The East Timorese later voted for independence, unleashing a wave of violence.
Habibie was also known for his quest to turn Indonesia into a technological powerhouse, including trying to develop a national aircraft industry.
President Joko Widodo, speaking at the hospital where Habibie was being treated, described Habibie as a “world class scientist and the father of technology in Indonesia.”


Indian officials warn of lockdown extensions as COVID-19 cases in South Asia near 6,000

Updated 04 April 2020

Indian officials warn of lockdown extensions as COVID-19 cases in South Asia near 6,000

  • Modi said this week the country will pull out of the planned three-week lockdown in a phased manner
  • India has been hardest hit by the disease in South Asia with some 2,902 cases, of which 68 have died

MUMBAI: The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases in South Asia neared 6,000 on Saturday, even as authorities in some cities tightened restrictions on movement and warned lockdowns could be extended in a bid to rein in the pandemic.
“If people don’t obey the rules seriously and cases continue to rise, then there may be no option but to extend the lockdown,” Rajesh Tope, the health minister of Maharashtra state which includes the financial hub Mumbai, told Reuters. “It could be extended in Mumbai and urban areas of Maharashtra by two weeks.”
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said this week the country will pull out of the planned three-week lockdown in a phased manner. India has been hardest hit by the disease in South Asia with some 2,902 cases, of which 68 have died.
Maharashtra has 516 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus — and 26 people have died.
While the government does plan to review the lockdown, set to end on April 14, three senior officials told Reuters this will depend on an assessment of the situation in each state, and lockdowns and restrictions would be extended in districts where the coronavirus case spread has continued.
Public transport in large metros such as Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi, may only be restored in a phased manner days after the lockdown ends, said the officials, who asked not to be named as the plans were still under discussion.
Restrictions tightened
The number of COVID-19 cases have more than doubled in South Asia in the last week. Health experts warn an epidemic in the region, home to a fifth of the world’s population, could overwhelm its already weak public health systems.
But Muslim-majority Pakistan and Bangladesh, and India, home to the world’s largest Muslim minority, have struggled to convince conservative religious groups to maintain social distancing.
On Friday, Pakistani Muslims at a Karachi mosque clashed with baton-wielding police trying to enforce new curbs on gatherings to prevent Friday prayers and contain coronavirus infections, officials said.
This came after the government in the southern province of Sindh, home to the financial hub of Karachi, enforced a three-hour curfew on Friday afternoon, in a bid to persuade Muslim worshippers to pray at home.
Pakistan has so far reported 2,547 coronavirus infections, fueled by a jump in cases related to members of the Tablighi Jamaat, an orthodox Muslim proselytising group.

Following is data on the spread of the coronavirus in South Asia, according to government figures:

* India has registered 2,902 cases, including 68 deaths.
* Pakistan has registered 2,547 cases, including 37 deaths.
* Afghanistan has registered 281 cases, including 6 deaths.
* Sri Lanka has registered 159 cases, including 5 deaths.
* Bangladesh has registered 61 cases, including six deaths.
* Maldives has registered 32 cases and no deaths.
* Nepal has registered six cases and no deaths.
* Bhutan has registered five cases and no deaths.