Syahrir (24 February 1945 – 28 July 2008) was a prominent Indonesian political economist. He was officially appointed by President of the Republic of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as Economic Adviser in the Council of Presidential Advisers on 11 April 2007. As a student activist, he was once sentenced to jail during the Malari demonstration in 1974.
He was born in Kudus, Central Java, on the 24 February 1945. Syahrir (nicknamed: Ciil) was born as the only child to the Ma’amoen Al Rasyid and Roesma Malik couple, both from the village of Koto Gedang in West Sumatra. His father was a high-ranking government official in Central Java during the Dutch colonial time, while his mother was an official at the Inspectorate of Women Education, Department of Education.(Mangiang et al. 1995)
Syahrir received his early childhood education in a public school in Jakarta; he also spent a year in the Dalton School Elementary School, Amsterdam. He continued his study to a Catholic high school, Canisius College in Jakarta. It was there that he discovered his love for economics. From Canisius College, he was enrolled at the University of Indonesia, where he studied economics.
During his study in the university, he became active in the Djakarta Students Association (Ikatan Mahasiswa Djakarta or IMADA), a student union. His involvement at IMADA made him appointed as the head of United Actions of Indonesian Students (Kesatuan Aksi Mahasiswa Indonesia or KAMI). Meanwhile, his activities in intra university organization made him appointed as a General Secretary of Students Senate, Faculty of Economics, University of Indonesia.
Historically, the student body at University of Indonesia had some significant roles in the country’s political movement.[who?] In 1974, students demonstrated against the government’s policy regarding the role of foreign investment in Indonesia. The demonstration somehow led to a riot—the incident is known as Malari. Syahrir, who was just graduated as a Bachelor in Economics from the Faculty of Economy, University of Indonesia and was getting ready to leave the country for a master degree scholarship at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, was arrested, tried and sentenced to 6 and a half years of prison for subversion and his involvement in Malari. However, he only spent almost 4 years in jail as political detainee.
After getting out of the prison, Ford Foundation, the sponsor of his scholarship, still granted him the opportunity to pursue his master degree. He graduated from Harvard University with a Ph.D. degree in Political Economy & Government in 1983. It was in Harvard that he became friends with Ninoy Aquino and Kim Dae Jung. He returned to Jakarta in the same year and became a lecturer in his former faculty, Faculty of Economics, University of Indonesia.
Later, he founded an organization called Institute for Economic and Financial Research (Ecfin) with his fellow economists. One of them was Mari Elka Pangestu, the current Indonesian Minister of Trade. He also founded another organization called Yayasan Padi & Kapas, which focuses on research, education & public health. During this time, he was active as a consultant and advisor for state banks and public companies.
In 2001, during the Reformation era, Syahrir founded the New Indonesia Alliance (Perhimpunan Indonesia Baru). The main activity of the Alliance is to organize a cabinet watch. The cabinet watch’s task is to monitor the government’s decisions on certain policies and then to announce the result of the observations to the public.
Syahrir is known as an economist and as a politician. In 2002, he founded the New Indonesia Alliance Party (Partai Perhimpunan Indonesia Baru) as his effort in offering a solution to the turbulent country. At the 2004 legislative elections, the party won 0.6% of the popular vote and no seats in the National People's Representative Council. He step down as chairman of the party when the 2004 elected president of the Republic of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, appointed Syahrir as Economic Advisor to the President. Syahrir’s responsibility as Economic Advisor to the President includes being special envoys to other countries, fulfilling presidential missions.
Notes and references
- Jakarta Post Editorial on The Council of Presidential Adviser
- Headlines at Antara: President meets would be presidential advisory council members
- People's Daily Online on Presidential Advisory Council
- Xinhua Online on Presidential Advisory Council