Fri, 18 Jul 2003

Megawati catches bug, cancels appointments

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Megawati Soekarnoputri canceled all her appointments on Thursday due to a heavy cold only days into the third year of her presidency.

Among the appointments canceled was an inauguration ceremony for five new Indonesian ambassadors.

The President was suffering from a sore throat and was hardly able speak, a presidential aide told The Jakarta Post

"The presidential team of doctors told her to take a rest last week and cancel most of her planned trips to the provinces," the aide said. "However, she insisted on going ahead with the visits."

Apart from the ambassadorial inauguration, Megawati was also scheduled to chair a Cabinet meeting on Thursday to discuss a number of security issues, including terrorism and Aceh.

Although it has not yet been confirmed, the President is also likely to cancel all of her appointments on Friday.

This is first time she has canceled official appointments due to health reasons since she became President in July 2001.

She has been busy visiting cities across the country for the last couple of weeks. It is believed that she caught her cold during one of these visits last week.

During her visits to the provinces in recent days, the President has always had one of the ministers in her entourage read out her addresses. The President decided to cancel her appointments early on Thursday, just a few hours before the ambassadors were supposed to be installed.

The 56-year-old President generally enjoys good health. The only serious problem she has had was an eye cataract which was treated in Singapore a few months after she became Vice President in 1999.

"She is feeling better now and is by no means confined to her bed all day, but she still cannot speak," the aide told the Post on Thursday evening. "She'll be back in the office on Monday."