A Minister whose distinguished service spans two regimes
IO – There are not many figures whose skills were so respected that they served as a Minister during two very different regimes. Soemitro Djojohadikoesoemo was a rare exception. Born in Kebumen, Central Java, on May 29, 1917, he died at the age of 83 on March 9, 2001, a Minister who served in both Soekarno’s “Old Order” and Soeharto’s “New Order”.
Soemitro was Indonesia’s Finance Minister from April 3, 1952 to July 30, 1953 under Prime Minister Wilopo. He returned to that post on August 12, 1955 and served until March 24, 1956 under Prime Minister Burhanuddin Harahap. Previously, from September 6, 1950 to April 27, 1951, he had been Trade and Industry Minister under Prime Minister Mohammad Natsir.
When Suharto assumed the leadership, marking the start of the New Order regime, Soemitro was appointed Trade Minister (June 6, 1968-March 28, 1973). In the following period, he was appointed State Minister for Research (March 28, 1973-March 28, 1978).
As father of Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto and father-in-law of former Bank Indonesia Governor Soedradjad Djiwandono, Soemitro is prominently known as Indonesia’s “Economic Maestro”. He sought out and applied numerous influential economic theories. Indeed, he counted several ministers in Soeharto’s cabinet, such as B.J. Sumarlin, Ali Wardhana and Widjojo Nitisastro as his former students.
Soemitro studied economics and earned his doctorate from the Nederlandsche Economische Hogeschool in Rotterdam in 1943. His dissertation “Het Volkscredietwezen in de Depressie” (“Microloans in an era of Depression”) is one of the most sought-after economics books.
Soemitro married Dora Marie Sigar while studying in the Netherlands. Dora was a Minahasanese postoperative nursing student in Utrecht. They met at an event.
After graduation, Soemitro worked at the Nederlandsche Economische Hogeschool research institute. In 1946, he returned to Indonesia and became an expert staff member of Prime Minister Sutan Syahrir, joining his Socialist Party of Indonesia (PSI).
Soemitro was a prolific author. Since 1942, the founder of the University of Indonesia’s Economics Faculty wrote some 130 books and papers in English. His last book was Jejak Perlawanan Begawan Pejuang, published in April 2000.
During his lifetime, Soemitro was bestowed numerous awards, among them the prestigious Bintang Mahaputra Adiprana II from the Indonesian Government. He was also widely recognised abroad, being the recipient of the Panglima Mangku Negara award from the Kingdom of Malaysia, Grand Cross of Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant (First Class) from the Kingdom of Thailand, Grand Cross of the Crown from the Kingdom of Belgium, as well as other awards from the Republic of Tunisia and the French Republic.
His involvement in the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia (PRRI) in Sumatra altered the course of his career trajectory during the Old Order regime. The Sukarno government accused him of being involved in corruption. Soemitro’s involvement in PRRI also led to the ban of PSI and its dissolution in 1960. He went into exile, taking refuge in different countries with his wife and children and only returned to Indonesia after the New Order was safely in power.
Soemitro died at Dharma Nugraha Hospital, Rawamangun, East Jakarta on March 9, 2001 after suffering from heart disease and chronic vasoconstriction.
His will stated he wished to have a simple funeral in a simple place, so the family decided to bury the famed economist at Karet Bivak Blok A-III Public Cemetery as his final resting place.
Soemitro may have passed away 20 years ago, but his brilliant thoughts in economics continue to live on and have become a priceless legacy for this country. (rp)