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World News

Doctor gives Suharto "only 50-50 chance"

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia’s former president Suharto, who ruled the country for more than three decades, is in a “very critical condition” after almost all his organ functions failed, his doctor told a news conference on Sunday.

Mardjo Soebiandono, chief of the medical team treating the 86-year-old at a Jakarta hospital, said there was only a 50-50 chance that he could survive.

“We have gathered the family twice today to tell them about the possibility that the situation could get worse,” Soebiandono said. “The condition of Mr. Suharto is very critical.”

Earlier Suharto, who suffered multiple organ failure on Friday and has since been on a ventilator, was visited by friend and contemporary Lee Kuan Yew.

Lee is now Singapore’s minister mentor, but was its prime minister for decades overlapping much of Suharto’s rule in Indonesia.

“I feel sad to see a very old friend with whom I had worked closely over the last 30 years, not really getting the honors that he deserves,” Lee told journalists for Singapore media after the visit, according to a Channel News Asia report. “Yes, there was corruption. Yes, he gave favors to his family and his friends. But there was real growth and real progress,” Lee was quoted as saying.

“I think the people of Indonesia are lucky. They had a general in charge, had a team of competent administrators including a very good team of economists.”

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Lee, 84, flew in from Singapore especially to see Suharto and is the first foreign dignitary known to have visited him in hospital.

Suharto was either sleeping or unconscious when Lee entered his room, according to former state secretary Moerdiono, who was also at Suharto’s bedside.

Moerdiono told reporters that Lee, accompanied by Suharto’s three daughters, had gone up to the former general to touch him.

While relations between neighboring Singapore and Indonesia have often been strained over the years, Lee and Suharto maintained close relations.

Suharto was taken to Pertamina hospital on January 4 suffering from anemia and low blood pressure due to heart, lung and kidney problems. His health worsened on Friday, and he was put on a ventilator.

Preparations have already been made for the former strongman’s burial near the Javanese royal city of Solo.

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But some Indonesians believe Suharto will not die easily because he practices mysticism.

“Maybe he needs to let go of his magic to be able to die in peace,” said Sukirman, a shopkeeper in Solo in central Java island.

Another man said he thought the doctors should let Suharto pass away rather than keep him alive with machines.

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“I follow news about him and I pity him. He is very old anyway. I think he has lived long enough and held power long enough,” said Budi Setiawan, a civil servant.

Suharto came to power after an abortive coup on September 30, 1965 that was officially blamed on the communist party. Up to 500,000 people were killed in anti-communist purges in the months that followed.

After Suharto quit office, he was charged with embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars of state funds, but the government later dropped the case due to his poor health.

He and his family deny any wrongdoing.

Additional reporting by Ahmad Pathoni in Solo and Daryl Loo in Singapore; Writing by Sara Webb; Editing by Jerry Norton

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