Surakarta stops for Soeharto's

Hundreds of thousands of Central Java people bid farewell to former president Soeharto on Monday, who they said deserved the highest of tributes from the nation, despite his controversial role in the past.

Hours before Soeharto's body arrived Monday at the Adi Sumarmo airport in Surakarta -- also known as Solo -- residents lined the 35-kilometer road the military ambulance used from the airport to the Astana Giribangun cemetery in Mateseh subdistrict, Karanganyar regency.

Many said they wanted to pay their last respects and bid farewell to the country's second president and great leader.

Many others said they were there for the entertainment value and to find out what the funeral procession looked like.

Thousands of elementary and high school students in their uniforms stood up in groups to see the convoys of cars carrying Soeharto's family members, state officials and other mourners.

Some students waved mini national flags while others unfurled banners that said "Selamat Jalan Pak Harto!" (Farewell Pak Harto!) and "Selamat Jalan Sang Jenderal" (Farewell the General).

Most students flocked to the street at the instruction of their teachers.

Some of them said they didn't know the former president personally and but said they had learned about his achievements for the sake of the nation.

"We were ordered by our teachers to see Soeharto's funeral process and all the groups of people participating in the funeral ceremony," said Dewi, a student at the Kentingan state elementary school in Solo.

Rubiem, a library staff member with the Sebelas Maret University in Solo, joined the group of people on the street near the campus to see the funeral procession.

Lessons at the campus virtually ground to a halt, while activities at government offices in Surakarta and Karanganyar were stopped.

Siti Fathonah, a 65-year-old vendor in Gamping village in Surakarta, stopped her daily activities to pay her respects to her "beloved former president".

"I'm proud of him because during his tenure, security was under control and prices of basic commodities were stable.

"Now, crimes are on the rise and prices continue escalating," she said.

Thousands of villagers in Karanganyar shouted "wuh" "wuh" to express their disappointment toward security personnel after spending hours waiting for the arrival of Soeharto's body.

Since Sunday, air and land transportation services to Surakarta and Karanganyar have been crowded and most hotels in the two towns were booked out by thousands of people from Jakarta and other towns.

Airline companies, including Garuda Indonesia, have provided additional flights to Solo and Yogyakarta in line with the increase in demand for seats following Soeharto's death on Sunday.

The Adi Sumarmo airport remained open for civilian flights and extended their operation to 24 hours a day on Sunday and throughout Monday, with fluctuating hikes in ticket fares.

"Out of 115 hotels, including seven three- and five-star ones in Solo, all are fully occupied with many hikes in room tariffs," said Subandono, chairman of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants (PHRI) in Solo.

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