Posted by: mel | December 31, 2009

Thousands turn out to bury Wahid

Radio France Internationale | 31 December 2009

“I, on behalf of the nation and the Indonesian military, surrender the body and soul of Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, the fourth President of Indonesia, to the soil of the motherland,” Yudhoyono said.

“Whether we realise it or not, really, he ws the father of pluralism and multiculturalism in Indonesia,” he said, before pouring soil into the grave.

Vice-President Boediono and several other ministers also turned out to pay their respects.

Wahid, who was popularly known as “Gus Dur”, died on Wednesday evening in a Jakarta hospital. He was 69-years-old.

His family say that he hinted that he would soon die when he visited family graves a week ago.

“He said ‘I will come back here again on 31 December. Please pick me up,’” Inayah Wahid, the former president’s youngest daughter, said on Thursday, according to the Jakarta Globe newspaper.

Chinese residents of Solo, Central Java, paid tribute to Wahid on Thursday.

“Without Gus Dur, discrimination against Chinese-Indonesian people would still exist,” community leader Edi Candra told Kompas.com website.

Wahid overturned his predecessor Suharto’s ban on the public celebration of Chinese festivals and culture.

In the US the White House praised the father-of-four as a proponent of religious tolerance who helped steer Indonesia through the democratic change that followed Suharto’s fall.

“A pivotal figure in Indonesia’s transition to democracy, President Wahid will be remembered for his commitment to democratic principles, inclusive politics, and religious tolerance,” spokesperson Robert Gibbs said.

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