Amien Rais

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Amien Rais
Born (1944-04-26) April 26, 1944 (age 73)
Surakarta, Dutch East Indies
Citizenship Indonesian
Signature of Amien Rais.svg

Muhammad Amien Rais (born 26 April 1944) is a prominent Indonesian politician who led and inspired the reform movement that forced the resignation of President Suharto in 1998. Amien Rais was the leader of Muhammadiyah, one of the two biggest Muslim organizations in Indonesia, from 1995 to 2000. Amien Rais was the Chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) from 1999 to 2004. During his chairmanship, the MPR passed a series of amendments to the Constitution of Indonesia. The amendments, among other things, established direct presidential elections, a presidential term limit (two terms), and the Constitutional Court.


Amien Rais was born in Surakarta, Central Java, as the second child of Suhud Rais and Sudalmiyah. The couple were Muhammadiyah activists in Surakarta. Suhud Rais graduated from Muhammadiyah's Mualimin high school. He worked in Surakarta's religion affairs office. He also was a member of Muhammadiyah's Board of Education in Surakarta chapter. Sudalmiyah was an activist in Aisiyah, a Muhammadiyah's women organization and had been its chairperson for 20 years. She graduated from Muhammadiyah's teaching school "Hogere Indlansche Kweekschool". She was a member of Masyumi party in the 1950s. She was awarded " The Central Java Best Mother" in 1985.

Amien's siblings are Fatimah (a daughter, the first child), Abdul Rozak, Ahmad Dahlan, Siti Aisyah and Siti Asyiah. They were brought up with a strict discipline as their mother taught to them. In various occasions, Amien Rais said that his mother affected him much in his life. He always took time to meet or to consult with his mother - who died on 14 September 2001.

Family life[edit]

Amien married his childhood friend, Kusnasriyati Sri Rahayu in 1969. During their ten years of marriage, they had had no child despite various medical treatments. In Mecca - on their Haj pilgrimage - they prayed to God in front of the Kaaba hoping that God would give them children. Two months later, Mrs. Rais was pregnant. The couple now have 5 children (Ahmad Hanafi, Hanum Salsabiela, Ahmad Mumtaz, Tasniem Fauzia and Ahmad Baihaqy).


When in primary school, Amien wanted to be a mayor which was inspired by Muhammad Saleh, the then mayor of Surakarta. Saleh was a respected person in his tenure. But in senior high school, Amien made up his mind and wanted to be an ambassador. This might lead him to enroll in international relations department in Gadjah Mada University. Amien graduated from the university in 1968 and attended Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt as a student fellow until 1969. Amien earned his master's degree from University of Notre Dame, Indiana in 1974. His thesis was on the Egypt's President Anwar Sadat's foreign policy. In 1984, he earned a Ph. D degree in political science from the University of Chicago. His thesis was " The Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt: Its Rise, Demise and Resurgence ". In 1988, he attended a post-doctoral program in George Washington University, Washington, DC.

Activities in Muhammadiyah and ICMI[edit]

After his studies in United States, he had been a Middle East specialist and noted for being a critic on US foreign policy. Controversially, Rais learned a lot about human rights and democracy in US. Amien Rais' activities in Muhammadiyah started in 1985 where he led The Council of Preacher ( Majelis Tabligh). Later in 1990, Rais was vice chairman elected in a convention ( muktamar ) in Yogyakarta. Amien Rais also was active in the newly established ICMI ( Ikatan Cendikiawan Muslim Indonesia ), the Muslim Scholars Association. Rais led ICMI's Expert Council, but resigned in 1997 under pressure from Suharto because he argued on the Busang and the Freeport cases. In 1995, Rais replaced Azhar Basyir, then the chairman of Muhammadiyah, who died soon after his re-election. In 1993, at a Muhammadiyah mid-term meeting ( Tanwir ) in Surabaya, Rais urged a presidential succession, a very rare issue amid the New Order regime. The political and economical decay in Indonesia during the 90s had Rais call a comprehensive issue: the political reform. Amien Rais was eventually a forerunner in crushing the New Order regime. This made him a number one enemy for Suharto's administration.

Political career[edit]

Amien Rais and Abdurrahman Wahid converse during a session of the MPR.

In 1998, Amien Rais became an outspoken critic, and allied himself with the reform movement. However, this would also force the New Order regime to ban any demonstration reflecting the people's voice over Reformasi. In May 1998, Jakarta was in chaos situation following the riots in some parts of the city. The army and the police forces were likely unable to handle the situation as President Suharto had a state visit to Cairo, Egypt. Upon his arrival from Cairo, Suharto learnt that the situation was out of control. Several days later, he invited some Muslim prominent figures - including Abdurrahman Wahid, Emha Ainun Najib, Nurcholis Madjid and Malik Fajar - to discuss the nation's current condition. Suharto proposed to establish a Reform Committee, to reshuffle the cabinet ministers and to resign from the presidency within 6 months. This was not responded to by those who attended the meeting. Suharto panicked as 14 of his ministers resigned from the cabinet. On 20 May, Amien Rais cancelled the mass rally to Monas square as an army general threatened to make "another Tiananmen" should he do so. Less than 24 hours later, Suharto resigned from his office and was replaced by Vice President B.J. Habibie. Habibie lived in Aachen, Germany.

Amien Rais and other reformists established the National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat Nasional / PAN) on 6 August 1998. Amien Rais was elected its first chairman with Faisal Basri as secretary general. Therefore, his position in Muhammadiyah was replaced by vice chairman Ahmad Syafi'i Maarif. PAN gained 6 percent votes in 1999 election that failed to nominate Rais as a president's candidate. However, the political compromise made Amien lead the People Consultative Assembly (MPR ). Being a king maker, Amien Rais and other Islam parties and Golkar elected Abdurrahman Wahid as president and Megawati Sukarnoputri as vice president. Amien Rais was also the leading figure in the Indonesian constitution's amendment process.

Amien Rais ran and lost in the 2004 presidential election. He and running mate Siswono Yudohusodo was nominated by PAN, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and some small political parties, and finished in the fourth place with 15% of the vote.

Amien Rais is currently the Chairman of PAN's Advisory Board, Muhammadiyah's Advisory Board, and is a professor at Gadjah Mada University. One of the founders of PAN, Abdillah Toha criticized him for his controversial statements and inconsistencies on many issues including his support on changing local elections to be indirect, and called him a "traitor of the Reform".[1]

In a corruption scandal trial of former Health Minister, Amein Rais is reported to have received funds related the case. He did not deny and admitted that he had received the fund but then accused the Corruption Eradication Commission as an incompetent dirty organization.


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Chairman of IndonesianPeople's Consultative Assembly
Succeeded by
Hidayat Nur Wahid
Preceded by
Position created
Chairman of National Mandate Party
Succeeded by
Sutrisno Bachir
Preceded by
Azhar Basyir
Chairman of Muhammadiyah
Succeeded by
Ahmad Syafi'i Maarif