Sultan sends condolences

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday consented to send his condolences to Dr Haji Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia, following the death of former President of Indonesia, Bapak Suharto.

In the message, His Majesty expressed his great sadness upon learning of the death of Bapak Suharto.

On behalf of His Majesty's Government and the people of Brunei Darussalam, His Majesty sent his condolences to Dr Yudhoyono and especially the family of the late Bapak Suharto.

His Majesty prayed to Allah the Almighty that the soul of the late Bapak Suharto be received amongst the blessed ones.

Meanwhile, many Asian leaders paid tribute to the former Indonesian president.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi extended his heartfelt condolences to the family of Suharto and the Indonesian people, Bernama reported. Paying tribute to Suharto for having helped to strengthen ties between Indonesia and Malaysia, the prime minister said his passing was a great loss to both countries.

Malaysia valued highly the role played by Suharto in enhancing bilateral relations, he said.

"The (cordial) relations have yielded immense benefits to both countries. We pray to Allah to bless Pak Harto's soul and to place him among the blessed," he said.

Malaysia is indebted to Suharto for his role in ending the Indonesian Confrontation against Malaysia after he became the Indonesian president, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.

In paying tribute to Suharto, the former prime minister said: "We looked up to him as a great leader and as an international statesman. For me, it's quite personal. I know him and I have worked with him for a very long time.

"I regarded him as a friend of Malaysia and as a personal friend," he told Bernama.

Dr Mahathir said Malaysia valued Suharto's efforts to end the Confrontation initiated in 1962 by Suharto's predecessor Sukarno.

"What Malaysia valued most is that it was during his time the confrontation ended. There was a lot of goodwill, a genuine desire to put an end to the confrontation. He cherished good relations with Malaysia," he said.

Dr Mahathir said he regarded as "absolute nonsense" western media reports accusing Suharto of killing nearly 500,000 people when he assumed power after an abortive coup by the Communist on Sept 30, 1965.

"I know this for a fact. I knew what happened. Indonesia was in a state of anarchy then and he had no authority. At the time of the killings, he was not even the president. He did not order the killing," he said.

The former premier said the people should not forget the role of the United States during the confrontation period between 1962 and 1966 as they supported the Indonesian armed forces to overthrow Sukarno who had been critical of the West at that time.

"The West was equally responsible for the very violent change of leadership in Indonesia. One should not very easily put the blame of the killing of 500,000 people as reported by the western media as being

the work of president Suharto," he said, adding that it was Suharto who had restored law and order at that time.

Dr Mahathir credited Suharto for playing a very big role in the development of Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Asean Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan described Suharto as having been a towering stalwart of the 10-member regional grouping.

Surin recalled that Suharto sent his foreign minister, Adam Malik, to join the other four founding fathers of Asean in Bangkok in establishing the regional body on Aug 8, 1967.

"The peoples of Asean are grateful to Bapak Suharto who actively pursued the policy of regional cooperation through Asean to build mutual confidence and develop good neighbourliness," he said.

He said it was Suharto who hosted the first Asean summit in Bali in Feb 1976 where the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the Asean Concord, and the Agreement on the Establishment of the Asean Secretariat were signed.

Surin said that all in all, it was widely recognised that during the Suharto presidency, Indonesia played a significant role in laying the political foundation for Asean. - Borneo Bulletin (28th Jan 2008)