Amir Sjarifuddin

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Amir Sjarifuddin : biography

27 April 1907 – 19 December 1948

At a two-party conference on 16-17 December it was announced that Amir’s PARSI would merge with Sjahrir’s political grouping, PARAS, forming the Partai Sosialis (PS). The Partai Sosialis quickly became the strongest pro-government party, especially in Yogyakarta and East Java. The party accepted the argument of Amir and its other leaders that the time was not ripe to implement socialism, rather that international support necessary for independence be sought, and that unruly constituents had to be opposed. The party’s westernised leaders showed more faith in Netherlands left-wing forces, than in the revolutionary fervour of the Indonesian people, which became a source of discontent among the party’s opponents.

Cabinet minister

Information Minister

Following the Japanese surrender on 15 August 1945 and the proclamation of Indonesian independence two days later, the Republic announced its first ministry on 4 September. The seventeen-member cabinet was composed mostly of ‘collaborating’ nationalists;Most Indonesian nationalist leaders saw the Japanese Occupation of Indonesia as an opportunity to take advantage of in their pursuit of independence. Their consequent cooperation with the Japanese saw the returning Dutch brand them ‘collaborators’, and thus illegitimate leaders, in an attempt to undermine support for the newly proclaimed Republic. Amir, appointed as Information Minister, was however, still imprisoned by the Japanese following his 1942-43 anti-Japanese underground activities.Reid (1973), page 32 Early in the Revolution, Amir worked closely with first Prime Minister and Sukarno rival, Sutan Sjahrir; the two played the major role in shaping the arrangements linking the new government of Indonesia with its people remarkably effectively.Reid (1973), page 69

On 30 October Amir, along with Sukarno and Hatta, was flown into the East Java city of Surabaya by the desperate British caretaker administration. The three were seen as the only Indonesian leaders likely able to quell fighting between Republican and British Indian forces in which the British Brigade were hopelessly outnumbered and facing annihilation. A peace fire was immediately adhered to, but fighting soon recommenced after confused communications and mistrust between the two sides, leading to the famed Battle of Surabaya.Reid (1973), page 52

Minister for Defence

On 16 October 1945, Sjahrir and Amir engineered a takeover within the KNIP. and following the 11 November transition to parliamentary government, Amir is appointed to a new cabinet with Sjahrir as Prime Minister.President Sukarno accepted a proposal for cabinet to answer to the Central Indonesian National Committee (KNIP) acting as Parliament rather than to the President. This watershed event ushered in the so-called ‘liberal’ or parliamentary form of government, which prevailed against the Sukarnoist-proposed constitution for twelve years. Leadership was thus handed to a ‘modernizing’ Western-minded intellectual, who at the time were thought to be the coming leaders of Asia and more palatable to Western ideas of government. When considered against previous forms of government—indigenous Indonesian, Dutch, Japanese and even the first brief Republican government—this was the most revolutionary political change at a national level during the 1945-50 Revolution. (Reid (1973), page 17) Described as ‘a man even his political adversaries found difficult to hate’, B.R.O’G. Anderson, Java in a Time of Revolution: Occupation and Resistance, 1944-46 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1972), p.206, cited in Vickers (2005), page 106 he played a key role as Minister of Defence. His position, however, was a source of friction with the TKR and its new commander, Sudirman, who had nominated their own candidate, the Sultan of Yogyakarta, Hamengkubuwono IX. (The Sultan, however, was not eager to contest the position). Amir was a central figure in the government’s ‘anti-fascist’ programme with the army a key target, which caused further frictions. PETA-trained army officers Sjahrir’s attacks on the ‘traitors’, ‘fascists’, and ‘running dogs’ who had cooperated with the Japanese. Amir promoted the Red Army as a model of a citizens’ army loyal to the government and holding socialist ideals. On 19 February 1946, Amir inaugurated a socialist and Masyumi politician-dominated ‘education staff’ for the army. The body appointed fifty-five ‘political officers’ at the end of May without consulting the army command. These new officers were to educate each TRI unit in the goals of the revolution.Reid (1973), pages 93-94 He was not, however, able to effectively impose such ideals on unit commanders, particularly as Sudirman and other PETA-trained resented the ‘fascist’ slur cast on them.Reid (1973), page 79 The Marxist’s overtones of Amir’s new military academies conflicted with the popular army view of being above politics and the need to play a unifying role in the national struggle; the army leadership consequently rejected attempts to introduce partisan ideology and alignments.