December 31, 2009 in Nation/World

Former leader Wahid dies

Niniek Karmini Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Then-Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid releases a bird during 2001’s National Conservation Day in Jakarta, Indonesia.
(Full-size photo)

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, who briefly ruled during the nation’s first tumultuous years of democracy and sought peace in far-flung secessionist provinces, died Wednesday. He was 69.

Wahid, known fondly by his nickname Gus Dur, was a proponent of moderate Islam and a democratic reformer who ultimately was unable to implement his ambitious ideas in the vast island state of 235 million people.

During nearly two years in power, from October 1999 to July 2001, Wahid created a broad coalition of unity amid political and financial chaos in the wake of the downfall of late dictator Suharto in 1998 after 32 years.

Wahid had been receiving treatment in the intensive care unit of Ciptomangunkusumo Hospital in Jakarta for the past week and died Wednesday evening.

Professor Yusuf Misbach, head of his medical team, said the former president died during surgery to remove a blood clot in his heart. Wahid’s condition had deteriorated because of complications with diabetes and kidney failure, he said.

Wahid had struggled with illness for years. He was confined to a wheelchair, lost most of his sight, and suffered serious kidney problems.

In a nationwide speech on television, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed his condolences to the family and announced he will preside over the funeral scheduled for today in Wahid’s hometown of Jombang.

He also ordered a week of national mourning and flags lowered to half-staff.

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