JAKARTA - Former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Mr S R Nathan was "a great friend of Indonesia".
Dr Susilo, who also goes by the initials SBY, was visiting the Singapore Embassy in Jakarta on Thursday (Aug 25) to pay his last respects to Mr Nathan, his Singapore counterpart who died on Monday, at age 92.
"For me, President Nathan was a great son of Singapore, a great educator, leader and statesman. He was also a great friend of Indonesia," said Dr Susilo after he signed a condolence book set up at the Republic's mission for visitors to pen tributes to Mr Nathan.
The two former heads of state had met on many occasions including Dr Susilo's first state visit to Singapore in 2005, just four months after he was elected Indonesia's sixth president.
During the visit, Dr Susilo, a former general in the Indonesian military (TNI), recalled their first meeting in 1998 when Mr Nathan was Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large and director of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS) at the Nanyang Technological University.
"When he was head of the IDSS, he invited me as the TNI chief of staff for political and social affairs to speak on Indonesia's reforms then... and I praised his deep understanding of the situation that was faced by Indonesia at that time. Since then we have had a close relationship," said Dr Susilo.
He added that their friendship grew after he and Mr Nathan became leaders of their respective countries and they continued to have regular discussions on issues relevant to the region, including the state of Asean, East Asia, the South China Sea, as well as Singapore-Indonesia bilateral cooperation.
"I understood his strong spirit to build a close and better partnership, friendship with Indonesia," said Dr Susilo.
Dr Susilo said their friendship extended to their families, including his wife, Madam Kristiani Herawati, sons Agus and Ibas, who were also close friends of Mr Nathan.
"When Agus and Ibas graduated from Nanyang (Technological) University... President Nathan came and gave the awards to Agus and Ibas. It was a wonderful occasion and I will always remember the true friendship between President Nathan and Madam Urmila, and my wife and I," he said, adding that Mr Nathan's passing was "a great loss for all of us".
"I expressed my deep condolences, and I pray that President Nathan may rest in peace," he said.