Royal farewell to Soeharto

Former president Soeharto, who died on Sunday, was given a state funeral likened to the burial ceremonies of the ancient Javanese kings at his family mausoleum in Karanganyar, Central Java, on Monday.

Soeharto's body was carried in a military hearse at the head of a long procession from Adi Sumarmo airport in Surakarta (Solo) to the Astana Giribangun cemetery, where his wife Siti Hartinah (Tien) Soeharto, and other relatives are buried.

Thousands of locals, including school children, stood patiently along the 35-kilometer route toward the burial place to give their farewells and pay a last tribute to Indonesia's longest serving president.

Soeharto died at 86 at Pertamina Hospital in Jakarta and was transported to Central Java aboard a Hercules C-16 aircraft via Halim Perdanakusuma Airbase in Jakarta.

The service commenced with the reading of Soeharto's biography, including mention of his great contribution to the nation during his military service and his 32-year presidency.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who had arrived on the scene earlier, presided over the funeral ceremony.

Those present at the ceremony included Soeharto's children, his sons and daughters in law, grand children and other relatives. Halimah, the divorced wife of his second son, Bambang Trihatmojo, and Regita Cahyani, also known as Tala, the divorced wife of his youngest son, Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, were also in attendance.

Several neighboring countries including Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar and Timor Leste sent delegates to attend the funeral.

A great number of state officials were also in attendance, including House Speaker Agung Laksono, Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie, chairman of the Regional Representatives Ginandjar Kartasasmita, Chief Commander of the Indonesian Military Gen. Djoko Santoso and the chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Soeharto's successors, B.J. Habibie, Abdurrahman "Gur Dur" Wahid and Megawati Soekarnoputri were not seen at the funeral.

Soeharto's body was buried next to his wife's grave, while soldiers fired a salvo of guns, and all in attendance paid their last respects.

The funeral was managed by workers from the royal Surakarta Mangkunegaran Palace.

In his address, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono hailed Soeharto as an important figure who had made a great contribution to the country. The President said Soeharto was a human being who had faults and who had committed mistakes during his 32-year tenure.

"We have lost one of the nation's best sons, a loyal fighter, true soldier and honorable statesman," Yudhoyono said.

"We say thanks for his great contribution and meritorious service to the nation during his life and forgive all his faults," he said.

During his military, political and administrative career, Soeharto, who awarded himself the status of a five-star general, was once dubbed theof development".

Soeharto left behind him a great number of unresolved human rights abuses and corruption casesespecially in connection with the handling of the aftermath of the 1965 abortive coup, the 1968 transfer of authority from the Old Order regime, and alleged power abuses that benefited his family and cronies during his long presidency.

Representing Soeharto's family, the former leader's eldest daughter, Siti Hardiyanti "Tutut" Rukmana thanked the people who expressed sympathy for her father.

She appealed to the public to pardon her father in order to smoothen the path for her father to return to the Almighty God.

However, even as the nation's enters to declared seven-day mourning period and increasingly louder calls are being heard for the public to pardon Soeharto, victims of human rights abuses, including those arrested and imprisoned without trial during his tenure, continue to say that they see no reason to forgive him.

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