Abdul Gafur, the originator of National Sports Day has passed away

Abdul Gafur, promoting sports in a sport-loving society. (Photo: DOC. JESSICA MARGARETHA)

IO – Former Minister of Youth and Sports in the New Order era Abdul Gafur passed away on Friday, 4 September, at the age of 81 years. Gafur died of COVID-19 with diabetes 2 congenital disease, at the Gatot Soebroto Army Central Hospital. 

Gafur was appointed by President Soeharto as Minister of Youth and Sports in the 1983-1987 period; previously he was the Junior Minister for Youth Affairs in the 1978-1983 period. He also served as Deputy Chair of the People’s Consultative Assembly from 1997 to 1999. 

When he served as Minister of Youth and Sports, Gafur initiated Haornas (National Sports Day), which was set through Presidential Decree No. 67 of 1985. Haornas is commemorated every 9 September. Besides, he also made October the Language Month at the commemoration of the Sumpah Pemuda (The Youth Pledge). During his tenure as Minister of Youth and Sports, Gafur also echoed the famous jargon “Promoting sports in a sport-loving society”. 

Gafur was an activist from the 1966 class who helped overthrow the Old Order. At that time, he was the Chairperson of the Presidium of the Universitas Indonesia Student Action Unit, while also active in the Islamic Student Association (HMI). Gafur admitted that he was “part of the group organizing large demonstrations” at that time, along with Cosmas Batubara, David Napitupulu, Zamroni, and others. 

Gafur completed his studies at the Faculty of Medicine in 1966. He then worked as a military doctor. In 1968 he was assigned to Kalimantan in an operation to crush PGRS/Paraku – a former volunteer group during the confrontation with Malaysia – which was labelled a Communist front. 

Gafur also ran for Governor of North Maluku. Together with his partner, Yamin Tamari, they were appointed as governor and deputy-governor for the 2001-2006 period, but then a re-election had to be held because of accusations of money politics. 

Gafur-Yamin was appointed governor and deputy-governor of North Maluku for the 2002-2007 period on Friday (26/4/2002). This decision was taken at a Special Plenary Session following pressure by the North Maluku People’s Declaration, which demanded that Gafur and Thaib be appointed as governor and deputy-governor. 

Finally, a Presidential Decree (Keppres) No 54/M of 2002 appointed Sinyo H Sarundajang as the Acting Governor of North Maluku. He was given the special task of immediately preparing for definitive governor and deputy-governor election for the 2002-2007 term. The governor and deputy-governor elected were the pair Taib Armayn and Prof. Madjid Abdullah, as quoted by Kompas Daily, Tuesday (29/10/2002). 

Apart from being active in the medical world and organizations, Gafur was also a productive writer. Among his other works were books on Youth Development Strategies (1978), Sports: Elements of National Development and State Development (1983), Suharto, His Views and Expectations (1987), and Siti Hartinah Soeharto, First Lady of Indonesia (1992). After Suharto stepped down, Abdul Gafur wrote the book The Last Days of a President (2000). (rp)