Sun, 11 Jun 2000

Gus Dur's right eye in 'excellent condition'

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (JP): Doctors in the United States declared on Friday (local time) that President Abdurrahman Wahid's right eye is in excellent condition, but indicated his vision is not likely to fully recover.

Randal J. Olson, director of the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah, said the President's vision was actually better than it was before and there is no need for any additional surgery.

"We see no reason for any concern about the stability of his vision or his health; he really seems to be doing extremely well," Olson, a cornea specialist, told a news conference at the eye center.

Abdurrahman underwent a two-hour eye check up at the center on Friday afternoon.

"We think that his clear cornea is the reason why he is seeing better, he can see more colors, he can see more form and he can recognize things better," Olson added.

He admitted, however, that doctors did not expect any significant improvement in Abdurrahman's vision.

"I know that there is always room for a miracle and other things, but medically speaking, I think the vision he has now is all that he is going to have," Olson said.

When asked whether technological devices could help improve Abdurrahman's vision, Olson replied: "Artificial vision is certainly a possibility in the future but it will be a long time before it is better than what we have now".

He said that throughout the eye treatment, "President Wahid continues to have a great sense of humor and I found that he and I both like Linda Rondstadt's music".

Olson recommended Abdurrahman return for further observation and possible treatment within six to eight months.

He also announced that a new ophthalmology cooperation between the Moran Eye Center and Indonesia has been initiated.

"The first part of the program will be my visit to Indonesia, within one month and I am going to visit all of the major ophthalmology programs there and we are specifically going to look at what we can do to help Indonesia to bring its eye care to a world class level," he said.

After a checkup last year, doctors here said in November that Abdurrahman's vision in his left eye was permanently impaired due to the combined effects of diabetes and high-blood pressure.

Vision through the right eye was said to be about 20 percent.


During Friday's checkup, the American doctors were accompanied by several Indonesian doctors, including neurologist Jusuf Misbach and Abdurrahman's younger brother, Umar Wahid.

First Lady Sinta Nuriyah and their daughter Zannuba Arifah "Yenny" Chafsoh Rahman were also present.

In a late breaking development before leaving Salt Lake City, Foreign Minister Alwi Shihab said there was a likelihood that Abdurrahman might be meeting with U.S. President Bill Clinton.

"We have received a signal that Clinton would like to meet with Gus Dur on Monday in Washington," he told journalists on the way to the airport.

"But there's no confirmation yet," he added.

If the meeting does take place it will have to be squeezed in between the president's visit to Baltimore and New York.

Abdurrahman and Clinton also met last year when the Indonesian president went for a medical checkup.

Alwi also revealed that he had been informed that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will visit Jakarta before August.

The president and his entourage in their initial schedule are due to leave for Missouri on Saturday morning to meet with a number of senators.

The president is also due to undergo another medical checkup at the Wilmar Eye Center, John Hopkins University, in Baltimore on Sunday and Monday.

In Baltimore, Abdurrahman is due to meet with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a number of senators, congressmen and local business people.

Flying a Garuda Indonesia Airbus A-330, the President left Jakarta on Wednesday for a two-week overseas trip.

His first destination was Japan, to attend the funeral service of former Japanese prime minister Keizo Obuchi.

From Baltimore the president's official itinerary is to fly to New York to meet with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday.

Crossing the Atlantic he will continue his trip to Paris to receive an honorary doctorate degree from Sorbonne University.

His next destinations are Tehran, Islamabad, Bahrain and Oman.

Before returning to Jakarta he will stay for two nights in Cairo to attend the G-15 summit which brings together 15 leading developing countries.

Indonesia will host next year's summit in Jakarta.

The visit to Cairo will also be a homecoming for Abdurrahman who studied there in the mid-1960s.

The President is scheduled to arrive home on June 21. (byg)