Fri, 25 Feb 2000

President diagnosed with the flu

JAKARTA (JP): President Abdurrahman Wahid was diagnosed with influenza on Thursday after a flurry of doctors at the palace earlier in the day sent jitters over his state of health.

An official statement from the presidential medical team said the President was thoroughly examined after coming down with a fever in the morning which later subsided.

"The President has been advised to rest for a few days," the team said.

But later in the evening the workaholic President was receiving guests as he hosted a dinner for German Islamic expert Anna Marie Schimmel.

"I am just fine," Abdurrahman told journalists before the dinner at his official residence in Merdeka Palace.

The President said he realized that he had caught a "cold" after a walk around the palace gardens in the morning.

"I had a slight fever. Then I had my breakfast and took a shower. But I still felt feverish. Then I called my doctors," Abdurrahman said.

Citing his doctor's diagnosis, the President said he was suffering from slight influenza.

"So just now I slept until 5 (p.m.)," he remarked with a laugh.

While doctors had officially asked him to rest for a few days there seemed no stopping Abdurrahman's cycle of activities. He seemed adamant to defy his physicians' advise and insisted on soon resuming his out-of-town activities.

"If I am quite fine, why not?" he said of the plan to visit Pekalongan and Demak, in Central Java, on Sunday.

However, there was no confirmation whether plans to visit Brunei and East Timor next week would go ahead.

The nation was jolted on Thursday morning when palace officials suddenly canceled all presidential appointments for the day.

He was earlier due to meet with leaders of the Supreme Advisory Council (DPA) and the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS).

Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri had to substitute during the installation of members of the National Commission on Law.

The hustle and bustle of doctors at the palace raised fears of the worse.

But officials maintain that a general examination was conducted along with a checkup, which was apparently long overdue.

The two-hour checkup was headed by Brig. Gen. Dr. Tony Soufyan.

He reiterated to journalists that the President was suffering "from the flu, or a viral infection. The President has been advised to rest for a few days, while taking the necessary medication."

The doctors who treated him on Thursday included Jusuf Misbach, Hendarmin Syafei, Firdaus and Umar Wahid, who is Abdurrahman's younger brother.

"Clinical tests show the President was suffering from a fever, while his general condition is good. No complications were found," Tony said.

The President's blood pressure and glucose content were said to be normal.

During the medical checkup, First Lady Sinta Nuriyah and his four daughters accompanied him.

There had been fears that Thursday's events may have been a recurrence of Abdurrahman's past medical condition.

Abdurrahman was hospitalized for two months after a stroke in January 1998. He then underwent brain surgery at state Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital.

He was also treated for hypertension in July 1997. High blood pressure caused severe nose bleeding at the time.

But a source very close to the 59-year-old President assured that "it's clear that he's in good health".

"He's a workaholic ... Doctors probably decided to use this opportunity to get him to rest," the source told The Jakarta Post.

Initial news of the President's health condition in the morning caused share prices on the Jakarta Stock Exchange (JSX) to slide.

Yuzar Nazaruddin, stockbroker at Ficor Sekuritas Indonesia, said investors were nervous on Thursday and were still speculating about the true health condition of the President.

"They hope to get clarification tomorrow (Friday)," Yuzar said.

The JSX Composite Index was down 1.9 percent or 10.941 points at 573.48.

Mirroring the stock market, the rupiah also closed lower against the dollar on Thursday at 7,475 compared to 7,445 the previous day. (prb/udi/mds)