Memories of Independence from Meutia Hatta, daughter of Proclamator Mohammad Hatta

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Meutia Hatta, daughter of Proclamator Mohammad Hatta. (photo: IO/Yoga)

Independence is sovereignty, freedom from rule of foreign powers

IO, Jakarta – Mohammad Hatta, more familiarly “Bung Hatta”, played an essential role in earning the independence of Indonesia from Dutch colonial rule. He was one of the proclamator of our independent on 17 August 1945. The Proclamation of Independence announced by Soekarno-Hatta was a new start for Indonesia. As the daughter of a Proclamator, Meutia Hatta stated that Bung Hatta interpreted “independence” as “having our own country and ruling ourselves”.

“The actual meaning of independence is obtaining and maintaining sovereignty. My father at the time said that we have achieved independence and that we are responsible to the people. A leader must truly devote his life, his mind, and his actions to maintain the glory of Indonesia. A leader must make sacrifices and not think of himself. My father fought for the country and even refused to marry before Indonesia became independent. He was also banished to Boven Digul in Papua in 1935 for his fight,” Meutia said.

Meutia stated that Bung Hatta started to become active in organizations at the age of 16 by joining the Jong Sumatranen Bond (Young Sumatrans’ Association). He was studying in MULO (Meer Uitgebreid Lager Onderwijs – “Extended Primary Education”), about Middle School level, in Padang in 1918. Bung Hatta was also active in the soccer club at school and became its treasurer.

In 1921, when Bung Hatta studied in the Handelshogeschool (Business High School) in the Netherlands, he entered the social organization Indische Vereegining (Indonesian Association). At the time, Bung Hatta suggested that the name of the association for the political struggle towards independence uses the name “Indonesia”. “Therefore, he already thought of the name “Indonesia” even then, so that in 1922 the organization changed its name to Perhimpunan Indonesia, which isthe same name in our language. When he was appointed the Chairman of Perhimpunan Indonesia in 1926, he made a political manifesto that Indonesia must be independent, integrated, and sovereign in achieving its dream of freedom. That’s when the young Indonesians became aware for the first time that they need to declare their intent with the name “Indonesia”. This was how the Youth Pledge (Sumpah Pemuda) was made on 28 October 1928. On his return from the Netherlands, Bung Hatta also established an organization called the Pendidikan Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National Education) in 1931. He was soon arrested for provoking others to seek independence,” she said.

As the daughter of the first Vice President, Meutia noticed that the primary characteristic of our first-generation leaders – Bung Karno, Bung Hatta, and the ministers at the time – is to always first think of Indonesia. Bung Hatta was not a soldier. He fought for the people through his ideas and strategies in State administration for improving the people’s lives, for their welfare. “Therefore, the people must be the masters of their own land. That’s what Bung Hatta said. In other words, we develop the nation for the sake of the people,” Meutia recalled.

Meutia remembered many impressive things from her father. For example, once Bung Hatta took her to visit the Asahan Hydro-powered Electricity Generator (Pembangkit Listrik Tenaga Air – “PLTA”) in the Toba Lake region, North Sumatra, in 1955. Meutia was only 8 years old at the time. “We need electricity. We can get it among others from PLTAs. In fact, it was my father, Bung Hatta, who initiated the PLTA Asahan project, when he was still Indonesia’s vice president. However, because it was such a long time ago, nobody remembered,” she said.

Bung Hatta also encouraged the production of Semen Gresik (Gresik Cement), now Semen Indonesia. He stated that the cement factory in Gresik must have increased production in order to get Indonesia developed. He also encouraged the establishment of schools of agriculture and the expansion of Sriwijaya Fertilizers, as Indonesia is both an archipelago and an agricultural nation.

Meutia was also present when Bung Hatta as the Vice President inaugurated PLTA Agam in West Sumatra and brought electricity to the rural areas in the Silungkang region. “There are many smart children in Silungkang who needed schools. Bung Hatta then instructed the establishment of an Islamic School of Trade (Sekolah Dagang Islam – “SDI”) because many of the residents there are traders and merchants,” she said.

Meutia recalled that her father was intensely concerned with education. She remembered vividly that Bung Hatta stated that we must establish agricultural schools, which are at the level of the current Vocational Schools, not just universities. “He even paid for the studies of a 14-year-old Aceh boy in a school of agriculture in Bogor. When he graduated, the boy returned to Aceh and developed agriculture there. He even served as the Head of the Agricultural Office there. I was deeply impressed by the fact that my father educated people so that they would develop their home regions. This is just one of those deeply impressive things that he did,” she said.

As the Proclamator’s daughter, Meutia feels that there are certain duties attached to her status. For example, she felt that she needed to write a book about her father’s struggles and she did just that. She also feels that she must be an example in hard work for the nation and refrain from corrupt practices. She does not feel burdened by this legacy. On the contrary, she does her best to emulate her father in doing things that would benefit the people. When President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono entrusted her to become the State Minister of Woman Empowerment, Meutia issued two Laws: Law no. 21 of 2007 concerning the Eradication of The Crime of Human Trafficking and the Pornography Law in 2008. At the end of her term, Meutia suggested to President SBY to expand the scope of her Ministry to include child protection. President SBY agreed, and he transformed her Ministry into the Ministry of Woman Empowerment and Child Protection.

Meutia believes that the current generation faces bigger challenges in maintaining the country’s sovereignty. “Are we already sovereign in our national and State administrative life? We must beware lest we become ordered around by foreign powers through our economy, politics, and culture,” she said.

In the exercise of our independence, we must maintain the sovereignty we have fought so hard for and achieved. Government policies must benefit the people. The general direction for this can be found in the Constitution of 1945 as the great work of our founding fathers. For example, when dealing with land laws, we must also consider existing tribal laws. We must also take the role of tribal leaders into account, and incorporate local wisdom aswell. (Ekawati)