Amir Sjarifuddin

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Amir Sjarifuddin : biography

27 April 1907 – 19 December 1948

Having watched the increased strength and influence of Imperial Japan, Amir was one of a number of Indonesian leaders warned against the danger of fascism before the war. Prior to the Netherlands’ invasion by Japan’s ally Germany, the Netherlands Indies was a major exporter of raw materials to East Asia and to this end, Amir’s groups had promoted boycotts against Japan. It is thought that his prominent role in these campaigns prompted the head of Dutch intelligence to provide Amir with 25,000 guilders in March 1942 to organise an underground resistance movement against Japan through his Marxist and nationalist connections. At this point, the Dutch colonial administration was crumbling against the Japanese onslaught and the top Dutch military fled Indonesia for Australia.B.R.O’G. Anderson, Java in a Time of Revolution: Occupation and Resistance, 1944-46 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1972), pp.413-14; Bob Hering, Soekarno: Founding Father of Indonesia 1901-1945 (Lieden: KITLV Press, 2002), pp.13, 223; Jacque Leclerc, ‘Afterwood: the masked hero’, in Anton Lucas (ed.), Local Opposition and Underground Resistance to the Japanese in Java, 1942-1945 (Clayton, Vic.: Monash University Papers on Southeast Asia No.13, 1986), pp.342-4. (all cited in Vickers (2005), page 86)

Upon their occupation of Indonesia, the Japanese enforced total suppression of any opposition to their rule. Most Indonesian leaders obliged either by becoming ‘neutral observers’ or by actively cooperating. Sjarifuddin was the only prominent Indonesian politician next to Sutan Sjahrir to organize active resistance. The Japanese arrested Sjarifuddin in 1943 and he escaped execution only due to intervention from Sukarno, whose popularity in Indonesia – and hence importance to the war effort – was recognised by the Japanese.Reid (1973), page 12

Early life

Born into Sumatran aristocracy in the city of Medan, Amir’s wealthy background and outstanding intellectual abilities allowed him to enter the most elite schools; he was educated in Haarlem and Leiden in the Netherlands before gaining a law degree in Batavia (now Jakarta). During his time in the Netherlands he studied Eastern and Western philosophy under the tutelage of the Theosophical Society. Amir converted from Islam to Christianity in 1931. There is evidence of sermons he gave in the largest Protestant church in Batak Batavia.