Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Indonesia ex-leader Suharto in critical condition

Indonesia ex-leader Suharto in critical condition

Jakarta (dpa) - The condition of Indonesia's ailing former dictator Suharto remained critical Wednesday, with dozens of specialists struggled to stabilize his condition, doctors said.

"Today, the general condition of Bapak (Father) Suharto is slightly better than yesterday," Dr Mardjo Soebiandono, head of the team of doctors treating Suharto, told a press conference. "He still is weak but he was conscious."

Soebiandono said after doctors conducted a Tissue Doppler Imaging examination of the former leader's heart there were signs of short breath and more fluid continued to infiltrate his lungs.

He said the observation also showed some damage to Suharto's heart muscle.

"After an intensive four-to-six hours of treatments, the condition was slightly improved and excess liquid in his lungs declined," Soebiandono said.

"The condition was improved due to help from machines," he stressed, explaining that when the veno-venous hemofiltration dialysis (CVVHD) was removed, the former leader's condition dropped.

"The condition has not improved. It is still quite worrying enough," Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said late Tuesday.

"We are all on top alert," she added.

The 86-year-old former leader's condition deteriorated on Tuesday with new signs of internal bleeding, which has caused Suharto's haemoglobin to drop despite of blood transfusions. Doctors also found signs of heart problems and a build-up of liquid in his lungs.

Suharto, who was forced from office nearly 10 years ago, was rushed to Pertamina Hospital on Friday with swollen intestines, a low heart rate and aenemia, prompting dozens of specialists from several hospitals to be called in.

Because of Suharto's declining condition, more restrictions were placed on visitors wishing to pay their respects to the former strongman, who ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for 32 years before student-led pro-democracy protests forced him to step down in 1998.

The team's heart specialists earlier have planned to implant another pacemaker to help synchronize the work of his heart but cardiologists said that he is nor well enough to undergo surgery. Doctors also said that pacemaker implanted in Suharto in 2001 would be replaced by a newer, more sophisticated model.

The former army general has been admitted to hospital numerous times since he stepped down, receiving treatment for intestinal bleeding and strokes, which doctors said left him brain-damaged and unable to speak coherently.

Suharto, who rarely appears in public and has lived in seclusion in Jakarta's Menteng neighbourhood since he left office, has been charged with corruption and also faces numerous allegations of human rights abuses during his rule.

For more than 30 years, Suharto ruled the world's fourth-most populous country in iron-fist, suppressing dissent and political opposition and controlling almost all areas of life, including military, business and economic affairs.

In May 2006, prosecutors closed a criminal case against Suharto, citing his deteriorating health. Although criminal corruption cases have been dropped or shelved in the past, a civil case involving the misuse of charitable foundations has been moving ahead.

The government is currently seeking 1.4 billion dollars in damages and assets allegedly accrued through a charitable foundation Suharto chaired while in power.

12:15 Jan 09, 2008

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