16.1.08

Preparations underway at mausoleum

Blontank Poer, The Jakarta Post, Surakarta

Despite reports around former president Soeharto's improving condition, at least 2,000 chairs and tent equipment have been placed at the western corner of Soeharto's family mausoleum.

Preparations started on Sunday at Argosari, the mausoleum where Siti Hartinah Soeharto, better known as Tien Soeharto, and other family members are entombed.

The burial ground is officially out-of-bounds for members of the public who have been flocking to the site for the last five days.

"Only close relatives are allowed to enter and they have to bring a pass from Kalitan," said mausoleum caretaker Sukirno.

The pass must be issued and signed by Sriyanto, the household head of Dalem Kalitan, Soeharto's official family residence in Surakarta.

A 68-year-old resident from Matesih village in the Central Java regency of Karanganyar, Suparmo, said he was disappointed at not being able to visit the Soeharto family burial ground.

He said he had usually been allowed to enter on Thursday evenings.

Sukirno said he was forced to prohibit local visitors from coming.

"I am only carrying out Kalitan policy," he said.

"This is not the appropriate moment to visit due to Pak Harto's ailing condition."

Sukirno said he did not know who had ordered the chairs and tent equipment.

In addition to the caretakers, scores of police and military personnel have secured the area, preventing visitors from entering.

Two main entrance points have been sealed and are being guarded by a number of Karanganyar police.

The Karanganyar regency administration has carried out work on a number of roads damaged by landslides on the northwestern part of the Astana Giribangun mausoleum over the past week.

The road leading to the burial complex is lined with dozens of news crew and equipment from a number of television stations.

News crew members have been waiting around Astana Giribangun ever since Soeharto's condition was reported as critical.

Astana Giribangun was built in 1974 and was completed two years later.

It consists of three parts; the Cungkup Argosari dome, which represents the highest level of society, the Argo Kembang and the Cungkup Argotuwuh, representing the lowest level.

The Cungkup Argotuwuh, which spans 81 square meters, has been reserved for five people -- Siti Hartinah Soeharto, both her parents and Siti Hartini Oudang, her eldest sister.

The last site is reserved for Soeharto.

Caretakers have dedicated Soeharto's tomb in between his wife's grave and his mother-in-law Mdm. Soemoharyomo.

A terrace which will later hold the graves of Soeharto's children is located outside the Cungkup Argosari and is partitioned by Jepara teakwood carvings.

Twelve graves have been set on the terrace, while a 405 sq.m. area rings the Argosari to accommodate 48 caretakers of the Mangadeg Foundation, formed by Soeharto to manage the burial site.

The Cungkup Argokembang measures 567 sq.m. and is located outside the Argosari.

It is designed for Soeharto's 116 grandchildren and close relatives, as well as those thought to have rendered meritorious services to the family.

The outer-most building is the Cungkup Argotuwuh, spanning 729 sq.m.

The building is allocated for 156 caretakers and extended family members of the Mangkunegaran Palace who wish to be buried there.

Astana Giribangun is 666 meters above sea level, or 84 meters below Astana Mangadeg, the mausoleum accommodating the remains of extended relatives of the Mangkunegaran Palace in Surakarta.

RM Said, alias Pangeran Sambernyawa, alias KGPAA Mangkunagoro I, founder of Surakarta's Pura Mangkunegaran, was entombed in Mangadeg.

Siti Hartinah Soeharto, who claimed to be a descendant of KGPAA Mangkunagoro III, had built the mausoleum near that of her ancestors.

The burial site is also equipped with a family residence, a mosque and a number of supporting facilities.

During Soeharto's reign, visitors from various cities in Indonesia flocked to the site.

www.thejakartapost.com

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