Suharto in hospital after suffering ‘stroke’

FORMER Indonesian President Suharto was admitted to hospital yesterday after suffering what family friends said was a stroke.

A close associate of eldest son Bambang Trihadmodjo told The Straits Times that arrangements were being made to fly in specialists to examine the 78-year-old strongman who fell from power in May last year.

Eyewitnesses said he arrived at the Pertamina hospital at noon, accompanied by daughter Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana and son Tommy Suharto. He was placed under observation in the VIP suite. Several of his six children were by his bedside.

“One of his private doctors tell us that he’s got a stroke,” said the family friend. “He had durian and lamb curry the night before, which affected him. The children are very worried, especially his youngest daughter Mamiek.”

According to Reuters news agency, Pertamina hospital sources said Mr Suharto was admitted after suffering a mild heart attack.

Besides his children, several other prominent figures visited him, including former Vice-Presidents Sudharmono and Try Sutrisno.

He also received a bouquet of flowers from the presidential palace with a message to get well soon.

Hordes of journalists waited outside the hospital for news as Mr Suharto’s lawyers sought to downplay the affair. One of them, Mr Juan Felix Tampubolon, said the former leader was expected to stay “a couple of days” in hospital for a routine check-up.

He brushed aside suggestions that Mr Suharto had suffered a stroke.

“It is routine, every month. I know the schedule is for a routine check-up,” he said.

The family friend, who meets Mr Suharto at least once a week with Mr Bambang, said that he had appeared healthy during their recent meetings despite pressures being placed on him and his children, now under investigation for allegedly amassing billions of dollars during his 32-year rule.

“It comes as a surprise to all of us,” he said. “It must be the diet and high cholesterol.”

Doctors with links to the former first family told The Straits Times that Mr Suharto’s latest stroke followed two minor attacks he had over the past two years.

In addition, he has had heart problems and a stone lodged in his left kidney – both of which received treatment in a much publicised trip to Germany in 1996.

Noted a medical practitioner: “This is his third stroke in three years. Things are not looking good for the old man.”

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