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The BBC's Richard Galpin
"Mrs Megawati's supporters may finally have their wishes fulfilled"
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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 03:32 GMT 04:32 UK
Indonesia celebrates Sukarno
People with T-shirts with the image of Sukarno and his daughter
Many wore T-shirts with the image of Sukarno and his daughter
Millions of Indonesians celebrated the centenary of the birth of the country's much-loved founding President Sukarno on Wednesday, amid growing calls for his daughter to take over the leadership.

Sukarno was a legendary ladies' man
President Abdurrahman Wahid, who is struggling to avoid impeachment, led a ceremony at Jakarta's main stadium - recently named after the first president, who was born 100 years ago on Wednesday.

But signs of the leadership battle showed when the crowd booed the president but cheered Vice-President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Many in the packed crowd were wearing T-shirts of Ms Megawati's PDIP party, and some carried portraits of her father.

Megawati Sukarnoputri
Megawati's popularity is partly due to her father's memory
However, the vice-president's younger sister - Rachmatawi Sukarnoputri - attacked efforts to oust the embattled Mr Wahid, comparing them to a "coup d'etat".

Ms Rachmatawi also urged Megawati to resign and accused her sister's party of abusing her father's name.

She said the same groups who toppled their father in the mid-60s were trying to do the same to Wahid.

Mr Sukarno was overthrown by then army chief General Suharto following an alleged coup attempt blamed on the Communist Party.


Sukarno potrait
Sukarno's memory still looms large in Indonesia
Mr Wahid praised the country's first president as someone who "championed humanitarianism".

"The existence of this nation, of this land, of this strong Indonesian country - all of this is the creation of Sukarno along with other leaders," he said to much applause.

"We have to respect him and we have to make a role model."

Media blitz

There has been a media blitz about Indonesia's first president in local newspapers, who despite his flaws is remembered as the man who led Indonesia to independence after 300 years of Dutch rule.

Exhibitions and seminars about Mr Sukarno were also held in several cities.

Sukarno dancing with his daughter Megawati
Sukarno dancing with his daughter Megawati
A brilliant orator known for his ability to arouse crowds, Mr Sukarno was known for his passionate nationalism and fierce anti-Western rhetoric.

He was set on creating a new world order and a greater voice for poor countries.

Unlike his often silent daughter Megawati, he was an outspoken visionary, with a charismatic personality. He was also a legendary ladies' man who married eight women.

"Bung Karno" or "Brother Sukarno" also fought to bring together Indonesia's hundreds of ethnic groups into a nation - described as his greatest success.

But he also nearly drove the country to bankruptcy and war in a military confrontation with Malaysia in the 1960s.

After flirting with democracy, he declared himself president-for-life but was eventually ousted.

Despite dying in shame 30 years ago, he appears to still inspire Indonesians today - leading magazine Tempo reported this week a survey showed 83% of respondents believed the country needed someone like Mr Sukarno now.

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See also:

30 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Testing Indonesia's democracy
29 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Indonesia's problems
30 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Showdown looms for Indonesian leader
28 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Wahid cleared of corruption
22 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Supreme Court option for Wahid
21 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati puts pressure on Wahid
19 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
Megawati in urgent talks with military
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