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Sutan Sjahrir, Little Brother’s Lasting Legacy

Sutan Sjahrir is one of the seven “Founding Fathers of Indonesian Revolution.” He urged Sukarno-Hatta to declare Indonesia’s independence despite his absence from the big event. He chose an elegant way to kick out the colonialists: he opted for diplomacy which was opposed by his peers. Unfortunately, history has negated the major role of Bung Kecil (Little Brother), as he was fondly called. Sjahrir was a revolutionary who died in exile. Who was Sjahrir and what was his contribution to the fledgling nation? Read Tempo’s special edition to discover the real Sjahrir.
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    awan, Tri Watno Widodo

    Little Brother’s Big Role

    Sutan Sjahrir was one of the seven Fathers of Indonesian Revolution. He urged Sukarno and Hatta to declare Indonesian independence although he himself was not present on the big day. He chose an elegant way to drive the Dutch out of Indonesia, a way which was opposed by the other Fathers of Indonesian Revolution. His anti-fascist, anti-military ideology was criticized as only fit for an educated elite. He was thus branded an elitist. Sjahrir went down to the people, touring the country as he mobilized cadres for the Indonesian Socialist Party, the party he founded after independence. History passed over the big role of Bung Kecil, Little Brother, as he was fondly called, in the Indonesian struggle for independence. Sjahrir was a revolutionary who died in exile.

    THE documentary recorded a moving scene. On August 14, 1947, Sjahrir stood before the United Nations Security Council at Lake Success in America, telling the world about Indonesia, a newly-independent nation with a long history. Unlike Sukarno, he spoke in clear, orderly language. “This documentary was lost and forgotten for 60 years,” said historian Rushdy Hoesein.

    Two months ago the documentary was screened at Tempo’s editorial office on Jalan Proklamasi No. 72. With a running time of only several minutes, it recorded a critical period in the new nation’s struggle for survival as the Dutch waged war to regain a lost colony.

    The scene shown in the documentary recalled a similar scene decades later when Yasser Arafat spoke before the General Assembly of the United Nations for the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli occupation of their land.

    The documentary was screened in preparation by Tempo of a special issue to be published on the 100th anniversary of Sjahrir’s birth. To this end we invited people who knew Sjahrir personally to a discussion at Tempo’s headquarters, including Rosihan Anwar, Des Alwi, Minarsih Soedarpo, Kuswari (the only surviving member of the executive board of the defunct Indonesian Socialist Party), Gita Prasodjo, and Siti Rabyah Parvati aka Upik, and those familiar with Sjahrir’s thoughts, including Rahman Tolleng, Sabam Siagian, Fikri Jufri, Rushdy Hoesein, and Ucu Aditya Gana, a postgraduate student of the University of Indonesia who is writing a thesis on Sjahrir.

    The lively disc
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    he wrote: “Our struggle now is no other than a struggle to gain moral freedom for our people. National maturity is the only way for us to attain a position of maturity as a nation.”

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