Suharto Remains Critical

JAKARTA ~ Former president Suharto underwent medical tests on Thursday as the health of the 86-year-old remained critical and plans for a new pacemaker stayed on hold, his doctors said.

Suharto, who held Indonesia in an iron grip for 32 years until he was forced by mass protests to step down a decade ago, was hospitalized last week with anemia and low blood pressure, as well as heart, kidney and lung problems.

He slipped into a critical condition, and has since improved and relapsed several times.

Marjo Soebiandono, one of the large team of doctors assembled to treat the former president, told a press briefing that Suharto was “still unstable.”

He said in particular “his respiration is not yet fully well and there are complaints of breathing difficulties.”

X-rays taken on Thursday showed fluid building up in his lungs again, but Suharto’s blood pressure and hemoglobin levels were both at good levels now, Soebiandono said.

“The plan is to maintain his general condition, improve the condition of his lungs and improve the balance of fluids,” he said, adding that plans to install a pacemaker were on hold until he was stronger.

On Wednesday, Soebiandono said Suharto’s heart, lungs and kidneys were still weak and doctors were continuing blood transfusions to push up his hemoglobin count. Suharto’s doctors also said he remained dependent on machines, including a dialysis machine.

In Jakarta, Vice President Yusuf Kalla held prayers at his official residence late on Wednesday that were attended by more than 100 members of the Golkar Party he chairs and which was Suharto’s political vehicle during his rule.

Prayers were also held in several areas elsewhere in the nation.

Suharto oversaw the transformation of Indonesia’s economy from a poor backwater to a powerhouse by the 1990s, but his dictatorial rule was marred by allegations of massive corruption and widespread human rights abuses.

Persistent poor health over the past decade, during which he has lived largely as a recluse at his family residence in a Jakarta suburb, meant that a criminal corruption trial against him was dropped in 2006.

Efforts to bring Suharto to justice for the alleged human rights abuses have also floundered.

But Suharto remains the target of a civil lawsuit, with the government seeking US$1.4 billion worth of damages and returned assets allegedly accrued through a charitable foundation that he chaired while in power.

Despite his ignominious fall, Suharto still wields considerable influence among Indonesia’s elite, with a stream of well-wishers rushing to his sickbed since his admission to hospital, though doctors have since banned most from seeing him.

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