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Son's visit sparks up sick Suharto

Suharto's family say the former president's health has deteriorated rapidly  

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The condition of ailing former Indonesian President Suharto has picked up a little after his detained son visited him in hospital.

Suharto's chief doctor said the ex-strongman appeared boosted by a visit from youngest and favorite son Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, who is at the center of a murder probe.

But medical specialists have said the 80-year-old Suharto, who is being treated by a team of 33 doctors, remains weak after being admitted on Monday.

Police had said they would only allow Tommy see his father if the former general, who led Indonesia for more than three decades, was in critical condition.

"I can say there is an improvement right now," Suharto's doctor Teguh Ranakusuma told a packed news conference at the Pertamina hospital.

"There was an emotional improvement after he met Tommy. He was conscious and was able to communicate with him although in a very limited way. We are evaluating his health every six hours."

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Suharto's condition is still listed as requiring "emergency handling," lung specialist Harryanto Reksodiputro told Reuters, adding he is suffering acute pneumonia compounded by other ailments such as diabetes.

Suharto has had several strokes since being forced to step down when the country he led from crisis to decades of rapid economic development plunged back into chaos in 1998.

He has been periodically hospitalized since then.

Suharto was spared from trial over his involvement in a $500 million corruption case last year after the court dropped the case because of his ill health.

Tommy Suharto
Police are detaining Suharto's son Tommy  

Last week, the Supreme Court said the elder Suharto could never stand trial because his health would not get better.

Tommy asks for blessing

Police earlier jostled with hordes of journalists as they led former playboy Tommy in and out of the hospital.

Looking healthy, Tommy was handcuffed to at least one officer and wearing a blue polo shirt.

Tommy spent around an hour at the hospital before going back to detention at police headquarters.

His chief lawyer said the father-and-son meeting, after more than a year apart, was poignant although Tommy shed no tears, unlike some of his brothers and sisters.

Police detained Tommy late last month after he spent a year on the run.

They have been asking him about the murder of a Supreme Court judge who handed him an 18-month jail sentence for graft, the ruling that caused Tommy to go into hiding.

Analysts had said that should Tommy be allowed to visit his father it would again show Indonesian law bends to the interests of the Suharto clan when their welfare is at stake.

Some independent Indonesian lawyers say the whole episode is a ploy to allow Tommy out of custody to visit him.

Special treatment

Others say the once mighty Suharto family has largely removed themselves from the country's volatile political arena although they still retain much of their wealth. Suharto and most of his children are rarely seen in public.

Suharto has been accused by critics of amassing with his six children a multi-billion dollar fortune during his rule of the world's largest Muslim nation.

He transformed Indonesia into a darling of the international donor and investor community.

But that growth came at the expense of rampant graft, widespread human rights abuses and a reluctance to build the strong institutions that are now needed to guide the country toward democracy after decades of authoritarianism.

Tommy is the only member of the family to be taken to court for graft. All members of the family have denied any wrongdoing.


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