His life record was so perfect, unparalleled by any other Indonesian recent politician. Born as the only son of a low rank soldier in the poorest region of East Java. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), came to earth at noon of 9th September 1949 when the hot sun rays baked the already dried hills of Seribu mountain range of Pacitan regency. SBY born among big families of Tremas Islamic boarding school (pesantren). He inherit the blood of the founder of Pesantren Tremas from his mother and founder of Pesantren Gontor from his father.
Little SBY live with his uncle, the chief of Tremas village, since his father was always moving to carry out his military duty. Even as the only son, he is not spoiled. Life was hard and so did young SBY hard to himself. His intelligence made him reference for his school friends especially who asked him to teach them in science, mathematics, and English language. Although it mean he must walk kilometers away to go to his friend’s house only to teach them. As reward, his friend treat him meal.
Always being number one in school. Even in the first six month in military academy in Magelang, Central Java, SBY must study hard to compete with better educated cadets from big cities. In the first year in military academy, cadet SBY only got one honourable medal for his intelligence. But during his military training, cadet SBY earn seven military medals and became best graduate of army military academy class of 1973.
Always became leader. Young SBY loved to organize his friends in sport and music activities and. He also had his own band with borrowed music instruments. Volley ball was his favorite sport since he didn’t like to play football, the most popular sport in Indonesia, because it always full of body contacts and violence. SBY led his friends to a volley game against other village boys, even it means they must go on foot for the game tens of kilometers away. Hiking and adventuring was the middle name of young SBY.
In military academy, SBY was commander of cadet corps with 3,000 cadets under his responsibility. It helped him to be close to Major Gen Sarwo Edhie Wibowo’s families, governor of military academy and the legend of the red beret corps Command Regiment of Army (now called Kopassus, the Army Special Forces Command) who helped General Soeharto quell communist party in late 1960s. In Sarwo Edhie’s residence he met Kristiani Herrawati (Ani), third daughter of Sarwo Edhie, who later became his lovely wife.
They married on 30th of July 1976 ini Hotel Indonesia, Jakarta. Their wedding party was held together with two other Ani’s sister wedding who also married with young military officer, Hadi Utomo (military academy class of 1970) and Erwin Sudjono (class of 1975). Hadi Utomo was not so succesfull pursued his military career and he resign when still a colonel. Hadi later became chief of Orderliness and Security Office of DKI Jakarta province and now as chief of Democrat Party founded by SBY. Erwin Sudjono succeed to earn three stars as commander of Army Startegic Reserve Command (Kostrad) and TNI general chief of staff. Due to his age, he failed to compete for Army Chief of Staff (KSAD) position. He succumb to younger officers who graduated earlier from military academy, Agustadi SP and Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin (both from class of 1974) but one year younger than Erwin.
Smart, tall, and best graduate. SBY free to chose to build his military career between two best units in Army, Kostrad or Kopassus. He destined to join Kostrad as Kopassus didn’t open registration by the time SBY was graduated from military academy. The 17th Airborne Infantry Brigade (Brigif Linud 17) Kujang I was his choise, a legendary units in the Army who fought bravely both Dutch occupation and Darul Islam rebellion in west Jawa during independence war in late 1940s. Young soldier SBY soon became a new born star. Smart and full of initiatives, and SBY always given duty which prevoiusly only fit for an officer whose rank two levels higher than his.
East Timor jungle was the first test for his combat abilities after he finished ranger course in Fort Brag US, 1976. He missed Operation Seroja in 1975 when ABRI (Indonesian Armed Forces) launch large scale invasion on Timor-Portuguese. Captain SBY led his company to search Fretilin rebels in the heart of East Timor jungle during 1976-1977. Every weeks his troops always succeed to catch some Fretilin members. SBY came back to East Timor jungle when he was a major, to lead Battalion 744 comprised a large majority of Timor natives, very brave and loyal soldier.
SBY spend his time in jungle around his soldiers so he earn epithet the ‘jungle commander’. He did so to keep combat contacts with the rebels who fought and hide in jungle. In mid 1986, his battalions crushed a Fretilin hideout in south west of East Timor. Lay there the only living Fretilin members bleed from the bullet wound, left by his runaway comrades. It was a custom among ABRI soldiers in East Timor to execute wounded enemies on site, but SBY managed to prevent them to do so. ”Pick him up! Search his identity!” yelled Major SBY to the stunned trigger happy soldiers.
They found the prisoner was Yulio Sarmento, a prominent Fretilin leader. SBY told battalion medics to nurse Sarmento’s wound. Next morning, wounded Sarmento evacuated by helicopter to Dili and then to Jakarta. From Sarmento, ABRI retrieve important informations about Fretilin warfare tactics and weakness in ABRI’s combat operation methods. His battalions earned award from ABRI high command for the living jungle trophy. From those days, ABRI always encourage soldiers to keep wounded enemy prisoner alive.
Not only combating Fretilin, SBY also introduce combat training video for soldier who would be assigned in East Timor. His superior consider the idea was so original, but maybe SBY had learned this during his course in US. SBY also gave special combat train for his soldiers. The approach gained him loyalty from his men. SBY military experience enriched with tens of course abroad especially in US. He submitted in jungle warfare course in Panama with US Army 82th Airborne Division and in Malaysia where he learned jungle combat tracking, a method later implemented in Kostrad.
When SBY became commander of Brigif Linud 17/Kujang I, the Army surprised as SBY proposed a war game in brigade level. Army was accustomed for division strength war games so they cannot provide money for a brigade war games. SBY moved on. Army high rank officers stunned when they saw the movement of thousands of Brigif 17’s infantry soldiers, tanks from cavalry, supported by artillery barracks and even combat helicopter, plus a pass by of air forces jet fighters in Sentul hill range, Bogor. Applause and all praise was to the architect behind the war games.
Enter Political Arena
During his military career, as a well educated and open minded soldier, SBY was not far from politic issue as ABRI those days also deeply involved in politic with its dual role policy (dwi fungsi ABRI). His short assignment as commander of Military Garrison Command (Korem) 072/Pamungkas in Yogyakarta was the biggest contribution for his political view. The atmosphere was highly influenced by large numbers of prominent academics, student activists and NGO, press and also artists lived in so called ‘The City of Students’. And SBY inhale it so deeply as he always invite students and press for discussions. Known student activists from Yogyakarta who later become his most loyal supporter during presidency campaign in 2004 were Aam Sapulete and Andi Arief, both now become comissioners of PT PN VII and PT Pos Indonesia, the state owned companies.
In the heyday of his intellectual venture, after only seven months in Yogyakarta, in October 1995 SBY was called to Jakarta for another duty. ABRI HQ in Cilangkap, Jakarta, appointed him as UN Military Chief Observer in Bosnia. To fit the duty, SBY must be promoted to brigadier general. His first star earned only in 21 years and hardly any other officer can overtake his record as military organization now was obesed with so many colonels queued for promotion to brigadier general. Most of them stranded in the colonel position until retired, included SBY’s brother in law Hadi Utomo.
Three star or lieutenant general rank earned within only 25 years in 1998 as SBY became ABRI Social Politic Chief of Staff (Kasospol ABRI), in the erly days of Indonesia political turmoil so called reformation. Asian economic crisis led to political crisis as students and civil elements lost their trust and impatience to President Soeharto. They want reform.
ABRI cannot hinder this transformation, in fact they were the objects of political demonization for their role always backing up Soeharto regime. SBY was in charge of managing the course of military reformation within ABRI. As an intellectual and open minded person, SBY invited many politic and economic scholars to Cilangkap for a discussion. Many of them was known for always criticizing Soeharto regime and ABRI dual role. Many conservatives officers in ABRI also criticize SBY policies. But the wind of change was so great as ABRI can only trailed behind.
SBY led a team of progressive military officer to design the blue print of ABRI transformation. He liquidate political body within ABRI included his post and he change the name to ABRI Territorial Chief of Staff (Kaster ABRI). ABRI dual role was disbanded and only focus on defence as Indonesian Police (Polri) who responsible for security was separated from ABRI. ABRI regain his former name TNI (Indonesia National Armed Force).
One prominent political analyst from The Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, recently told that SBY actually was not so supportive with the idea of diminishing ABRI’s dual role (dwi fungsi) once created by General Abdul Haris Nasution in 1960s after Soekarno fall. As researchers from LIPI presented their paper about the importance of ABRI to leave its dwi fungsi pursuant to democratic system, SBY bring to them some political experts from Gadjah Mada University. The Gadjah Mada University team also presented paper about ABRI’s dwi fungsi claimed as a result of intensive research. Their conclucion was, Indonesian people still need ABRI’s dual role and there was lack of refusal. ”From that day I know that SBY try to please his conservatife superior,” said Ikrar on an online news service. Still to date, SBY as president earn less respect from Ikrar.
Indonesia held second democratic election in 1999, after first election in 1955, and formed new government to replace President BJ Habibie, who acted president after Soeharto resignation in 20th May 1998. This was a transition government, product of political compromise between Golkar as former ruling party, new breed political parties, and TNI who still maintain their presence–though reduced to half–in parliament. SBY was called to joint the Presiden Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) administration as representation of TNI.
Upon hearing his appointment as minister of mining and energy, SBY was shocked. It was the most difficult decision to make by an army officer who fall in loved with his military career. Accepting the Gus Dur offering mean he must retire from TNI, a rule that was made by himself as the architect of military reform. ”My ultimate goal as a soldier was to be army chief of staff,” said SBY.
The first challenge as minister of energy came in April 2000, fuel scarcity due to failure in Balongan refinery system which took three month for repairment. It worsened by when Al Ahmady refinery in Kuwait which Indonesia import HMOC for gasoline production, was also broke down. It was summer holiday so fuel consumption in North America was so high and crude oil supply was hard to get even in spot market. Until Balongan reparation finished, Pertamina (Indonesia state oil company) decided to move fuel refinery to Singapore Petroleum Company.
SBY biggest contribution during his minsitry in energy and mining was bringing draft on Oil and Gas Law to the parliament, later signed during Purnomo Yusgiantoro ministry. In October 2000, SBY was appointed as coordinating minister on politic, social, and securities (menkopolsoskam). Here he encounter the political confrontation between President Gus Dur and parliament, and between president and vice president Megawati. Gus Dur wanted to call for presidential decree to disband the parliament, but SBY persuade him not to do so. Later SBY was given presidential order to restore the political crisis and to negotiate with parliament.
The Indonesian parliament (DPR) still unsatisfied with Gus Dur policy and they summon for a special session of assembly of People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), the highest political body who gave mandate to president, in July 2001. Gus Dur relieved SBY from his position, later SBY refuse other ministry position offered by Gus Dur. But Gus Dur later fall, replaced by Megawati.
Parliament looking for person to fill position of vice president. Some MPR factions offer SBY to run for vice president. SBY felt so confident after TV polling showed he was so popular, especially after he was relieved by Gus Dur but still manage good relationship with his former boss. SBY failed as only gain third position after Hamzah haz and Akbar Tandjung. It gave him first political lesson and later he decide to found his own political party, Democrat Party.
President Megawati offered him position as Menkopolkam only to face civil conflicts in Ambon, Poso, North Molucca, and Kalimantan which took thousands of life. In May 2003, Aceh peace talk between Indonesian governtment and Aceh Liberation Movement (GAM) facilitated by Henry Dunant Center in Tokyo was broke. GAM rejected Indonesian offering for large autonomy on Aceh. SBY recommend military emergency state in Aceh to Megawati which lead to TNI large scale military operation to suppress GAM armed rebellion.
Early 2004, there were crack in relationship between SBY and Megawati as SBY declare to run for presidency in coming 2004 election. In March 2004 SBY resign from Megawati cabinet, followed by Jusuf Kalla (JK) from coordinating ministry of people’s welfare who run as vice president candidate for SBY. SBY and JK win the election, and the rest of stories you already knew….
Quo Vadis SBY?
Supposing SBY chose Kopassus instead of Kostrad, what would happen? But God destined him to joint Kostrad because it was suit for him. SBY was not a type of soldier like Sutiyoso, former Jakarta governor, who joined Kopassus in his early military career. He was not suit to be a soldier who only wear t-shirt and blue jeans sneaking around East Timor border to carry out infiltration misson prior to Seroja Operation in 1975. SBY came to East Timor as regular infantry unit and he never involved in military intelligent operations.
But SBY political venture may be compared to Vladimir Putin of Russia, in less extreme measure. After the fall of Sovyet Union, they watched their beloved country once scared by US was torn apart and humiliated by the world as economic situation was very bad. It worsened by political conflict between Presiden Boris Yeltsin and the remnant of communist parties who wanted to bring Russia back to its golden red era. Putin was so concerned and he assemble power to rebuild Russia. The former KGB (Sovyet secret service) officer gathered his military officer comrades in a villa by the Komsomol’skoye lake in St Petersburg in mid 1990-an.
Putin and SBY was alike. SBY witnessed Indonesia post Soeharto era ablazed in political turmoil, unstable government, and battered by so many civil conflicts. Indonesia was in the brink of balkanization as separatism issue was so rampant, either to gain independence by armed rebellion or only political struggle for large regional autonomy. As for Putin, he want to take over Russia from the incapable political pundits.
Putin join Nash Dom-Rossiya (Our Home is Russia/NDR) Party of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Slow but sure, he gain important post in Yeltsin administration. Putin won election in 2000 and become president of Russia. SBY just maybe has the same thought as Putin, but only after he brought his dream down to become chief of the army, and dragged by the wave of reformation.
And after both become president in their own country, the difference between Putin and SBY widened. SBY chose conventional path, carefully planned gradual change. Putin chose the more radical ones. The Red Bear wokened up from its drunkenly sleep. Putin nationalized private corporations belongs to Russian tycoons troubled by law issue or deliberatley trapped by Putin intelligence. Less than 10 years, Moskow once lingered with people queued for bread rations transformed to a modern capitalist city. Moskow boiled up in fast economic development and become the most expensive city in the world as its road full of luxury European cars and billboards of jet set life style goodies.
Indonesia and Russia was not so difference in term of abundant natural resources and big populations. The same tools can made the same result on both. SBY was an infantry soldier, he was not intelligent officer just like Putin. Is it possible Indonesia could be build differently if only SBY just put more patience to enter Kopassus?
But, Indonesia and Russia has great basic difference. Russia keep its enemy by always feeling threatened by her neighboring western Europe and US, and its former satellite states such Ukraine. As Indonesia didn’t like enemies. Indonesia impose free and active for its foreign policies and always wanted to build good relationship with other country.
Soekarno once always said about unfinished revolution. Soekarno created enemies for Indonesia. The first enemy was called western capitalist and imperialist. Indonesia confrontate Dutch on West Papua issue and seek war with British on the founding of Sabah and Serawak state for Malaysian territory which actually British dispute with Philippine….
it was not a suggeston to vote or not to vote on the coming Indonesia presidential election. All data taken from SBY biografi so its reliability guaranteed.