Suharto undergoes surgery; pacemaker fitted

JAKARTA, Indonesia, AP

Surgeons operated on Indonesia’s former dictator Suharto on Wednesday and implanted a cardiac pacemaker, a doctor said.

The 30-minute procedure was ordered a day after the former president, 80, was admitted to Jakarta’s state run Pertamina Hospital with dangerously low blood pressure and an irregular heart beat.

“He is stable. The operation was a success. But there could always be complications,” said Miftah Suryadipraja, a doctor at the hospital.

“He will stay in the hospital for two or three more days for observation.”

On Tuesday, doctors initially described his condition as critical. However, he stabilized after being treated with a temporary external pacemaker that brought his heart beat under control.

Following the improvement, it was decided that a permanent internal pacemaker should be fitted, said Suryadipraja.

Suharto, a five-star army general, ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for 32 years before he was forced from office in 1998 amid riots and pro-democracy protests.

Since then a series of health problems have prevented his prosecution over allegations of massive corruption.

In the period after his ouster, he has suffered at least three strokes and last February had his appendix removed.

Last September a three-judge panel abandoned a graft trial against Suharto after several physicians claimed that he had suffered brain damage as a result of the strokes.

Despite this, Indonesia’s newly appointed Attorney General Baharudin Lopa said last week that Suharto remains a suspect and would be tried again if his health improves.