Emotional footage emerges of BJ Habibie, Xanana Gusmao saying farewell

Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie better known as BJ Habibie was the third Indonesian president. He died yesterday aged 83. – AFP pic

Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie better known as BJ Habibie was the third Indonesian president. He died yesterday aged 83. – AFP pic

Former Indonesian president B.J. Habibie, who allowed democratic reforms and an independence referendum for East Timor following the ouster of dictator Suharto, was buried yesterday in a state funeral with full military honours.

He died of heart failure at a Jakarta hospital on Wednesday at the age of 83.

An engineer educated in Indonesia and Germany, Habibie invested almost two decades doing work for German plane maker Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Blohm, growing to the placement of vice president and director of utilized know-how when Suhato persuaded him to return to Indonesia in 1974 to enable direct a campaign to industrialize the financial system.

He rose through the ranks to become Suharto's vice president in 1998, and was sworn in as Indonesia's third president in May of that year after the Asian financial crisis sparked massive protests that forced the autocratic Suharto to step down after three decades in power.

Responding to global criticism of Indonesia's occupation of Portugal's former colony of East Timor, Habibie surprised Indonesians by announcing in January 1999 a plan to hold a referendum under United Nations supervision on self-determination, offering a choice between special autonomy and independence.

Sixth Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or SBY recalled his relationship with Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie or BJ Habibie at the late scholar's house on Wednesday.

Habibie served for just 17 months as president - he withdrew from contention in the October 1999 election - and was succeeded by Abdurrahman Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur.

Indonesian militias deployed terror tactics to intimidate people into voting for continued union, but Timor-Leste voted overwhelmingly to split from Indonesia.

Dr Habibie was laid to rest alongside his wife of 48 years, Madam Hasri Ainun Habibie, a medical doctor who died in 2010. "BJ Habibie spoke from confidence as well as conscience".

In spite of his reforms, Habibie was unable to master the political tumult unleashed by the college student uprising. Habibie was born in June 1936 in a small town in South Sulawesi, and studied aviation and aerospace engineering in Germany and the Netherlands before returning home in the mid-1970s. After all, it was not the first time Habibie had entered a hospital for treatment. They are survived by two sons, neither of whom are involved in politics.

Arrangements were being made for a state funeral at Jakarta's Kalibata heroes' cemetery on Thursday led by President Widodo.

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