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Syahrir in his youth

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.[1] As a student activist, he was once sentenced to jail during the Malari demonstration in 1974.


He was born in Kudus, Central Java, on 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.[2]

In 1974, students at the University of Indonesia 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's 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's degree. He graduated from Harvard University with a Ph.D. degree in Political Economy & Government in 1983. 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 Yayasan Padi & Kapas, an organization that 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.

At the 2004 legislative elections, the New Indonesia Alliance Party (Partai Perhimpunan Indonesia Baru) 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.

Syahrir died on July 28, 2008 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore. He had an advanced stage of lung cancer. He was buried in the Tanah Kusir Cemetery, Jakarta, on July 29, 2008 [3][4]

Personal life[edit]

Syahrir was married to Dr. Nurmala Kartini Syahrir, a chairman of the Indonesian Anthropological Association, and has a son, Pandu, and a daughter, Gita.

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