Maybe BJ Habibie should have stayed an engineer in Germany. From all accounts he was brilliant as one, having developed constructs now known as the Habibie Theorem, the Habibie Factor and the Habibie Method. He certainly seems more alive when he talks about airplanes, his favourite story being the N-250, a revolutionary turboprop of his design (“Until today, the only fly-by-wire turboprop ever made by mankind!”).
Instead, he went home, and is now most famous – or infamous – for being “the president after Suharto”. The shortest-tenured president in Indonesian history (he resigned after his accountability speech was rejected by the People’s Consultative Assembly), he nevertheless installed a free press, returned power to the legislative branch and stabilised the economy during the 1997 financial crisis.
On December 4, 2012, he spoke at Penang Institute’s second Asean Coalition for Clean Governance Leaders' Lecture, marking his first visit to Penang. Penang Monthly caught up with him the next morning ahead of his packed schedule.
JEFFREY HARDY QUAH: You’re seen today as the transitional leader between the Suharto era and the post-Suharto era. But during your administration, did you see yourself as a transitional president?
BJ HABIBIE: No. I saw myself as someone who became president based on the constitution. I was the vice president, and the vice president at the time was not elected in one package with the president. (President Suharto) stepped down because he faced a lot of problems, and I had to concentrate on solving those problems.
What were your priorities?
To make everything predictable.
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