Ruslan Abdulgani

Ruslan Abdulgani

Ruslan Abdulgani (November 24, 1914, Soerabaja — June 29, 2005, Jakarta; his first name is also spelled Roeslan) was an Indonesian government official and diplomat known for his role as a leader during the Indonesian National Revolution in the late 1940s, and as a key minister and United Nations ambassador in the Sukarno government during the 1950s and 1960s.

Ruslan was born and raised in Surabaya, East Java. He came from an upper-middle-class family; his father was a neighborhood shopkeeper and owned a small fleet of taxis. His mother, his father's second wife, was a religious tutor, giving reading and religion lessons from the Qur'an. According to a memoir of his childhood, which Ruslan wrote in the 1970s, his mother was also a strong Javanese nationalist, and it was from her that he first learned about Dutch colonial rule and the possibility of independence.

During the Indonesian fight for independence from the Dutch in the late 1940s, Ruslan was a key lieutenant under Sukarno, earning the future president's trust and ensuring him a secure place in the new government. In the 1950s he served most prominently as foreign minister, representing Indonesia abroad during the tumultuous decade when, under Sukarno's leadership, Indonesia tried to transform itself into a postcolonial, anti-imperialist success story.

Ruslan's most prominent moment as a public servant came in 1955, when he served as secretary-general of the Bandung Conference, a major meeting of African and Asian countries working to form what became the Non-Aligned Movement as an alternative to alignment with one of the Cold War superpowers. Ruslan served as Indonesia's foreign minister from March 1956 to April 1957. From July 1959 to March 1962, he was head of the Supreme Advisory Council (DPR); in October 1962 he became Minister of Information.

While foreign minister, Ruslan was briefly arrested in August 1956 by the Indonesian military in West Java, and accused of corruption. Part of a power struggle between the Sukarno government and dissatisfied military officers, he was promptly pardoned by vote of Sukarno's cabinet, and the military was forced to release him.

After Suharto replaced Sukarno as president in 1967, Ruslan served briefly as Indonesian ambassador to the United Nations. He left formal government service in 1971, but continued to play a role as an elder statesman in Indonesian politics. After president Suharto stepped down in 1998, he emerged as an advisor to presidential candidate Megawati Sukarnoputri, Sukarno's daughter, and as a critic of Suharto's Golkar successors, Jusuf Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid.

In 1998 Dutch historians Bob de Graaff and Cees Wiebes published a book, "Villa Maarheeze: De Geschiedenis van de Inlichtingendienst Buitenland" ("Villa Maarheeze: The History of the Netherlands Foreign Intelligence Service") in which they alleged that Ruslan had secretly worked for the Dutch government during the conflict over Papua (Irian Jaya) in the 1960s, by passing confidential information about Indonesian activities. Ruslan vehemently denied the charges, saying that he had seldom even communicated with the Dutch government even in his official government capacities.

Ruslan's wife Sihwati Nawangwulan, also a prominent activist during Indonesia's independence movement, died in 2001 at the age of 85. Ruslan and Sihwati had five children together. Ruslan died in June 2005 after suffering from stroke and pneumonia. He was one of the last survivors of Indonesia's war for independence.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called him "a leader who never said bad things about others". Suharto called him "a great man and leader who has given so much for the country he loves".

His second daughter, Retnowati Abdulgani-Knapp, wrote a biography about her father, "A Fading Dream: The Story of Roeslan Abdulgani and Indonesia", which was published in 2003. In it, she described Ruslan as a lifelong fighter against colonialism and imperialism.


* Abdulgani-Knapp, Retnowati. "A Fading Dream: The Story of Roeslan Abdulgani and Indonesia". Singapore: Times Books International, 2003. ISBN 9812324232 ISBN 978-9812324238
* Abdulgani, Ruslan. "My childhood world." "Indonesia" 17:113-135, 1974. Trans. William H. Frederick.
* "Asia-Africa Speaks From Bandung". Jakarta: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Indonesia, 1955.
* de Graaff, Bob; and Wiebes, Cees. "Villa Maarheeze: De Geschiedenis van de Inlichtingendienst Buitenland." The Hague: Sdu Uitgevers, 1998. ISBN 9012082196 ISBN 978-9012082198
* Finch, Susan, and Daniel S. Lev. "Republic of Indonesia cabinets: 1945-1965". Ithaca: Modern Indonesia Project, Cornell University, 1965.
* Goh Cheng Teik. "Why Indonesia's attempt at democracy in the mid-1950s failed." "Modern Asian Studies". 6(2):225-244, 1972.
* "Ruslan calls Dutch book 'slanderous'." "The Jakarta Post" November 29, 1998.
* "Independence fighter Ruslan dies at 91." "The Jakarta Post" June 29, 2005.

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