The extended family of Indonesia's third president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie marked the seven-day commemoration of his death by holding a tahlilan (prayer gathering) at his house in Patra Kuningan, South Jakarta, on Wednesday, September 18, 2019.
The late BJ Habibie passed away at the age of 83 at the Gatot Subroto Army Hospital (RSPAD) in Central Jakarta on Sept. 11, after undergoing treatment for 10 days. Members of the public are continuing to visit his grave at the Kalibata Heroes Cemetery in South Jakarta to pay their respects.
The prominent engineer, born on June 25, 1936, served as research and technology minister under Soeharto for 20 years, before being thrust into the role vice president during the dying days of the New Order regime in March 1998.
Renowned for his intelligence and known as “the golden son” of Soeharto for his close relationship with the country’s longest-serving president, he became the first, and shortest-serving, president of the Reform Era, assuming the office after Soeharto’s resignation in May 1998 and relinquishing it after fresh legislative elections held in October 1999.
Habibie is known for leading the country to embrace a democratic and open era after Soeharto’s authoritarian rule. Before the 1999 general election, he oversaw a bevy of democratic reforms, the release of political prisoners and a revision of the Press Law that abolished the requirement for press organizations to obtain a government-issued publishing license (SIUPP).
He passed two laws for decentralization, thereby paving the way for regional autonomy in the country and putting an end to the centralized governance of Soeharto’s New Order regime.
He also allowed then-Indonesian province of East Timor to hold a referendum and choose between special autonomy and independence in August 1999.
Only last month, the government of Timor-Leste commemorated the 20th anniversary of the referendum by inaugurating a new bridge named after Habibie in the country’s capital of Dili.
Besides his political career, Habibie is known for his engineering prowess as well as his deep love for his wife Hasri Ainun Besari.
The Sulawesi native left Indonesia to study engineering at the RWTH Aachen University in Germany in 1955, obtaining an engineer’s degree in 1960 and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 1965.
In 1962, Habibie returned to Indonesia on sick leave, during which he became reacquainted with high-school classmate Ainun, whom he married in May 1962. The two left for Germany shortly afterward. The couple had two sons, Ilham Akbar Habibie and Thareq Kemal Habibie.
After concluding his doctoral studies, Habibie accepted a position with German aerospace manufacturer Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm in Hamburg, where he worked until 1974.
He returned to Indonesia in 1974 after being recruited by then-president Soeharto to take part in the government’s development drive and was made chief executive officer of the new state-owned aerospace manufacturer PT Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara (IPTN), now known as PT Dirgantara Indonesia. He was appointed to the Cabinet in 1978.
Ainun’s death in 2010 was a heavy blow for the former president, and he is set to be buried beside her at Kalibata Heroes Cemetery in South Jakarta on Thursday.
Two movies have recently been made about Habibie’s youth and relationship with Ainun: Habibie and Ainun in 2012 and Rudy Habibie in 2016.