Mohammad Yamin

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Mohammad Yamin
Mohammad Yamin (1954).jpg
Mohamad Yamin in 1954
14th Minister of Information
In office
6 March 1962 – 17 October 1962
Preceded byMaladi
Succeeded byRoeslan Abdulgani
8th Minister of National Education
In office
30 July 1953 – 12 August 1955
Preceded byBahder Djohan
Succeeded byR.M. Suwandi
6th Minister of Law
In office
27 April 1951 – 3 April 1952
Preceded byWongsonegoro
Succeeded byLukman Wiriadinata
Personal details
Born(1903-08-24)24 August 1903
Sawahlunto, West Sumatra, Dutch East Indies
Died17 October 1962(1962-10-17) (aged 59)
Jakarta, Indonesia

Mohammad Yamin (24 August 1903 – 17 October 1962) was an Indonesian poet, politician and national hero who played a key role in the writing of the country's 1945 constitution.

Early life[edit]

Yamin was born in Talawi, Sawahlunto, in the heartland of the Minangkabau on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. He was the son of Tuanku Oesman Gelar Baginda Khatib. Oesman had five wives with whom he had sixteen children, including Mohammad Yaman Rajo Endah, the eldest, an educator; Achmad Djamaluddin, a journalist, who later in life added to his name his nom de plume, Adinegoro; and Ramana Oesman (1924–1992), a pioneer of the Indonesian diplomatic corps.

In 1937, Yamin married Siti Sundari, daughter of a nobleman from Surakarta, Central Java, by whom he had one child, a son, Dang Rahadian Sinayangish Yamin ("Dian"). In 1969, Dian married Gusti Raden Ayu Retno Satuti, the eldest daughter of Prince Mangkunegara VIII, one of the four native princes of the Vorstenlanden (princely territories) in Central Java.

Yamin was a historian, poet, playwright, and politician. He was educated at the Algemene Middelbare School (AMS) in Yogyakarta, majoring in history and Far Eastern languages, including Malay, Javanese and Sanskrit. Upon his graduation in 1927, he went on to study law at the Rechtshogeschool in Batavia, as Jakarta was known during the colonial period in Indonesia. The Rechtshogeschool, founded in 1924, is the precursor of the Faculty of Law of what became the Universiteit van Indonesie and, after the transfer of sovereignty, changed its name in 1950 to Universitas Indonesia, the premier tertiary institution in the country. Yamin earned his doctorate in law (meester in de rechten) in 1932.

In the early 1930s, Yamin was also active in journalist circles, joining the editorial board of the newspaper Panorama, together with Liem Koen Hian, Sanusi Pane and Amir Sjarifuddin.[1][2] In mid-1936, together with his colleagues Liem, Pane and Sjarifuddin, Yamin started another newspaper, Kebangoenan (1936–1941), which—as with Panorama—was published by Phoa Liong Gie's Siang Po Printing Press.[1]

He worked in Jakarta until 1942 specializing in "private law". Yamin's political career started early and he was active in nationalist movements. In 1928, Yamin participated in the Second Congress of Indonesian Youth, which issued the Sumpah Pemuda. Through the organization Indonesia Muda, Yamin became an active proponent for Malay to become the national and unifying language. It has since been renamed "Indonesian" and made the official language of the Republic of Indonesia and the principal vehicle for innovative literary expression.

Literary legacy[edit]

Yamin began his literary career as a writer in the 1920s, when Indonesian poetry was marked by an intense and largely reflective romanticism. He was a pioneer in that art form.[3]

Yamin started to write in Malay in the Dutch-language journal Jong Sumatra, the literary publication of the Jong Sumatranen Bond, a semi-political organization of Sumatran youth. Yamin's early works were tied to the clichés used in classical Malay. He debuted as a poet with "Tanah Air" ('motherland') in 1922. It was the first collection of modern Malay verse to be published. Quoted below is the first stanza of "Tanah Air", his ode to the natural beauty of the highlands in present West Sumatra:

Di atas batasan Bukit Barisan
Memandang beta ke bawah memandang
Tampaklah hutan rimba dan ngarai
lagi pun sawah, telaga nan permai :
Serta gerangan lihatlah pula
Langit yang hijau bertukar warna
Oleh pucuk daun kelapa :
Itulah tanah airku
Sumatera namanya tumpah darahku.

In the above poem, one imagines Yamin standing on the hills near the town of Bukit Tinggi, the site of the prehistoric canyon now verdant with rain forest and paddy fields. Note that he refers to Sumatera, specifically the part that is called the Alam Minangkabau which lies on the western part of the large island, as his land and water (tanah airku) as well as that to which he will defend with his blood (tumpah darahku), and not Indonesia as it became independent in 1945. This may reflect the early development of his concept of nationhood.

The credit for the first important modern prose in Malay belongs to his fellow Minangkabau, Marah Roesli, author of the novel Sitti Nurbaya which also appeared in 1922. Rusli's work enjoyed years of great popularity.

Yamin's second collection, Tumpah Darahku, appeared on 28 October 1928.[4] The date was historically important, because it was on that date that Yamin and his fellow nationalists recited an oath: One Country, One Nation, One Language, popularly known as the Youth's Oath (Sumpah Pemuda). The date is celebrated as a national holiday in Indonesia. His play, Ken Arok dan Ken Dedes, which took its subjects from Java's history Pararaton,[5] appeared in one of the 1934 issues of Poedjangga Baroe, the only literary publication that featured the rebuke to the predominantly Dutch-speaking indigenous intellectuals. His compatriots included Roestam Effendi, Sanusi Pané and Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana, founders of Poedjangga Baroe.

In his poetry, Yamin made much use of the sonnet form, borrowed from Dutch literature. At that time among the major writers was the national activist Abdul Muis (1898–1959), whose central theme was the interaction of Indonesian and European value system. In 1936 appeared Pandji Tisna's (1908–1978) Sukreni: Gadis Bali, possibly the most original work of pre-independence fiction, which dealt with the destructive effect of contemporary commercial ethics on Balinese society. Distinctly innovative poetry had appeared in the 1910s. The European sonnet form was especially popular, but the influence of traditional verse forms remained strong. Although Yamin experimented with Malay in his poetry, he upheld the classical norms of the language more than the younger generation of writers. Yamin also published plays, essays, historical novels and poems, and translated works from such authors as Shakespeare (Julius Caesar) and Rabindranath Tagore.

Political life[edit]

Yamin was active in the Jong Sumatranen Bond (Association of Sumatran Youth), and in one of its forums he befriended Mohammad Hatta, who became Indonesia's first Vice President. In his early political activities, Yamin advocated the non-cooperative stance of the Indonesia Party (Partindo) against the Dutch colonial administration, declining all invitations to join the civil service. He earned his living through writing and reporting.

Yamin was elected to the People's Council Volksraad in 1939, an advisory body created in 1917 by the Dutch in the Netherlands East Indies. It opened its first session in May 1918. It served as a forum for the expression of grievances, but lacked the power to pursue genuine reform. In 1928, it was transformed into a legislative body acting at the sufferance of the Governor General who held the power of veto on all acts of the Volksraad.

Upon the dissolution of Partindo, Yamin formed the Indonesian People's Movement (Gerakan Rakyat Indonesia - Gerindo) in May 1937.[4] Other founders of Gerindo were A. K. Gani (1905–1958) and Amir Sjarifuddin (1907–1948). Gerindo's aim was to raise public consciousness of nationalist ideas by organizing the people. Gerindo's founding, however, also reflected a growing willingness on the part of many left-wing nationalists to cooperate with the Dutch. This willingness arose both from despair over the prospects for organizing effective nationalist resistance in the face of Dutch military and police power and from a conviction that collaboration against fascism (especially Japanese fascism) had the highest priority in world affairs. Gerindo hoped that through cooperation the Dutch would establish a separate legislature in the colonial territory. Shortly before the Japanese attack on Java, Amir Sjarifuddin received funds from the Dutch authorities to organize underground resistance. This movement was quickly ended by the Japanese. Gerindo, as all other organizations, were banned. Gerindo's policy of cooperation with the Dutch prefigured the postwar strategy of the Socialist Party — including that of Amir Sjarifuddin, defense minister and later prime minister of the Indonesian Republic — in making far-reaching concessions to the Dutch to obtain international recognition of Indonesia's sovereignty.

During the Japanese occupation (1942–1945), Yamin was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Center for People's Power (Pusat Tenaga Rakyat - PUTERA, not to be confused with the Malaysian political party opposed to the United Malays National Organization and its affirmative-action ideology of Ketuanan Melayu). The Indonesian Putera was a Japanese-sponsored confederation of nationalist organizations. Putera was established on 9 March 1943, with Sukarno as chairman. Concurrent with his role in Putera's Advisory Board, Yamin was appointed a senior official at the Sendenbu (the Japanese Propaganda Office).

Putera had a dark side. Chairman Sukarno played a major role in the conscription of romusha laborers forced to serve the Japanese army. It is estimated that 270,000 Indonesian romushas were sent to the islands other than Java and Sumatra, as well as to other Japanese-occupied lands in Southeast Asia. Many of them died of starvation, diseases, and executions in the camps. Other members of PUTERA had a nobler ambition and that is to advance the cause of, and pave the way for, eventual Indonesian independence.

Yamin was also one of the sixty-two founding members of the Japanese-sponsored body investigating the preparations for independence Badan Penyelidik Usaha-Usaha Persiapan Kemerdekaan (BPUPK). He suggested to the body that the new nation should include all the Malay-speaking world: not only the territories of the Netherlands Indies, but also Sarawak, Sabah, Malaya, and Portuguese Timor. On 29 May 1945 in one of its sessions, Yamin delivered a speech on certain philosophical and political foundations for the proposed new nation and enumerated five principles for the nation that would emerge after independence. Those five principles Pantja Sila were later incorporated in the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution.

Yamin's claim of authorship for Pancasila was questioned by Dr. Mohammad Hatta, Mr. Subarjo, Mr. A. Maramis, Prof. A.G. Pringgodigdo, Prof. Sunario and all of the surviving members of BPUPK who were subsequently interviewed. Pancasila, is the state ideology of the Republic of Indonesia [6] and consists of the following:

  • Belief in the One Almighty God (Ketuhanan yang Maha Esa)
  • Just and civilized humanity (Kemanusiaan yang Adil dan Beradab)
  • The unity of Indonesia (Persatuan Indonesia)
  • Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives (Kerakyatan yang Dipimpin oleh Hikmat Kebijaksanaan dalam Permusyawaratan/Perwakilan)
  • Social justice for the whole of the people of Indonesia (Keadilan Sosial bagi Seluruh Rakyat Indonesia)
Tomb of Yamin in Talawi

The ideas contained in Yamin's draft of the constitution became the major underpinnings of Indonesian political institutions. Not to the simple separation of powers common in the Anglo-American structures of government, Yamin looked closer to home - to the Nationalist Chinese and proposed five branches, in deference to the then regnant collectivist philosophies. These were:(1) The Executive as represented by the President and the Vice-President, along with the Ministers (2) the Representative Institutions, (3) the All Indonesia Assembly, (4) the Advisory Council, and (5) the Supreme Court. His ideas were seconded by Soepomo, who proposed different names for these institutions.

On 17 August 1945, Indonesia proclaimed independence and the next day, the Preparatory Committee for Indonesian Independence (PPKI) met and tasked a commission of seven: Sukarno, Mohammad Hatta, Soepomo, Subardjo, Otto Iskandardinata, Yamin and Wongsonegoro to make the final and necessary changes in the national Constitution, which had already been written during the month prior to Japanese surrender to the Allied forces (Ref 2).

Yamin served in the cabinet of successive, post-colonial administrations, notably as Minister of Education and Culture (1953–1955) in the First Ali Sastroamidjojo Cabinet, Minister without portfolio (1957–1959) in the Djuanda Cabinet, Minister for Social Affairs and Culture (1959–1960) in the First Working Cabinet, Minister and Deputy Director of the National Planning Board (BAPPENAS)(1960–1962) in the Second Working Cabinet and Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Information and Director of BAPPENAS (1962 until his death) in the Third Working Cabinet. He founded many universities across Indonesia, including Universitas Andalas in Bukittinggi in his native West Sumatra.

Yamin died in Jakarta on 17 October 1962. He was buried with full national honors next to his father, in the family plot in Talawi, on the island of Sumatra.

The originator of significant ideas, Yamin dominates modern Indonesian political and cultural history. His ideas contributed to the political awakening and the surge in national pride in Indonesia.[7] His contributions to the political, educational and cultural development of Indonesia was recognized in the years after his death. He was recognized posthumously with one of the nation's highest honors and proclaimed a National Hero of Indonesia (Gelar Pahlawan National Indonesia).

In 1994, Dian Yamin's widow, "Tuti" Yamin donated all of Mohammad Yamin's papers to the National Archives in Jakarta.

Selected works[edit]

  • Tanah Air, 1922
  • Indonesia, Tumpah Darahku, 1928
  • Ken Arok dan Ken Dedes, 1934
  • Sedjarah Perdjoeangan Dipanegara (History of the Dipanegara Wars), 1945
  • Gadjah Mada (history of the Majapahit prime minister), 1948
  • Revolusi Amerika (American Revolution), 1951
  • Tatanegara Majapahit (7 volumes), an exposition of the administration of the Majapahit Empire (5th to 14th century AD).
  • Naskah-naskah Persiapan Undang-undang Dasar, 1959 - a compendium and commentary on the proceedings of the deliberations leading to the promulgation of the 1945 Constitution.
  • Proklamasi dan Konstitusi Republik Indonesia (The Proclamation of Independence and the Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia), 1951
  • Kebudayaan Asia Afrika (The Asian and African Cultures), 1955


  1. ^ a b van Klinken, Geert Arend (2003). Minorities, Modernity and the Emerging Nation: Christians in Indonesia, a Biographical Approach. Leiden: KITLV Press. ISBN 9789067181518.
  2. ^ Dieleman, Marleen; Koning, Juliette; Post, Peter (2010). Chinese Indonesians and Regime Change. Amsterdam: BRILL. ISBN 978-9004191211.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Engelfriet, Aad. "History of Indonesia Mirror Site Aad 'Arcengel' Engelfriet". Retrieved 22 April 2018.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 6 December 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 May 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2006.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  • Cheng Han Tan et al., Legal Education in Southeast Asia, Asian Journal of Comparative Law v1(2006), No 1, Article 9. Free copy available at [1]
  • Kahin, George McTurnan, Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1952.
  • Kusuma, RMAB,"Lahirnya Undang-Undang Dasar 1945", Jakarta, Badan Penerbit Fakultas Hukum Universitas Indonesia, 2004. ISBN 979-8972-28-7.