Mohammad Hatta was born in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra, Indonesia, on August 12, 1902. Allthough his father died while he was an infant, he was raised in a secure, well to do family environment which encouraged scholarly achievement and faithfulness to Islam. These characteristics became his signature during his career as one of the foremost intellectuals in the Afro-Asian anti colonial movement.
Education and Political Activism
As a child Hatta received the best education available in the Netherlands Indies, including Dutch language secondary schooling in Jakarta. By the time he left for the Netherlands to continue his studies at the Rotterdam School of Commerce he had already developed a keen interest in political affairs, having served while still in his teens as an officer of youth organizations in West Sumatra and Jakarta. Shortly after arriving in Rotterdam he became treasurer of the Indonesian Union (Perhimpoenan Indonesia) at a time when it was adopting explicitly political programs.
Hatta did not return to Indonesia, as he and his nationalist compatriots called the colony, until 1932. During these ten years he emerged as the overseas leader of the Indonesian nationalist movement and became acquainted with counterparts representing other independence movements, including the Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1927 Hatta was accused by Dutch authorities of writing treasonous articles. After being imprisoned for a year and a half, Hatta successfully defended himself and his associates in a rousing, uncompromising courtroom speech which, upon publication in Indonesia, set a militanttone for the independence movement.
After his return to Indonesia Hatta and his compatriot Sutan Sjahrir sought to join forces with other nationalist leaders, including Sukarno. The organizational efforts of these men were thwarted by the repressive policies of the colonial state. First Sukarno was arrested and exiled to Flores; in 1934 Hatta and Sjahrir were arrested and eventually imprisoned in the much harsher prison camp at Digul, Western New Guinea. They later were relocated to the island of Banda, where they continued to formulate their ideas and express them in articles,which were circulated in many Indonesian cities. When the Dutch in the Far East surrendered to Japan in early 1942, Hatta, back in Jakarta, assumed a new leadership role.
Occupation and Independence
Together with Sukarno and Sjahrir, Hatta participat in the Japanese occupation government. He remained communication with underground elements of the nationalist movement, and he used his position as vice chairman Putera a mass organization created in 1943 to confirm political preparations for independence. With the collap of Japan’s imperial ambitions, Indonesia became independent on August 17, 1945. The days leading up to this eve were tumultuous and included a brief “kidnapping” of Sukarno and Hatta by youths who were pressing for dramatic action on the part of their leaders. Sukarno and Hatta signed the proclamation of independence and quickly we designated president and vice president, respectively, at the provisional parliament.
The next four years were a period of armed strugg against the Dutch, who were intent upon regaining contr( of the East Indies. For Hatta it was a time of intense politic, activity which included another detention by the Dutch an a deepening rift with Sukarno. As negotiations leading to th December 1949 Dutch cession of sovereignty proceede( Hatta’s international stature and his ease and competency in dealing with Europeans were instrumental in determinin the outcome. Among other things he successfully oppose imposition of a federal system designed by the Dutch.
Political Ideas and Influence
Although Hatta subsequently was overshadowed by the more flamboyant and aggressive Sukarno, many of hi positions became important not only in Indonesia but inter nationally. He was an articulate champion of non align ment and of socialism based mainly on cooperatives and decentralization. He also believed that Indonesian social ism should be firmly grounded in Islam.
Because he was from Sumatra and was so different ir personal style from Sukarno, a Javanese, the two came to be regarded as thoroughly complementary. But these same differences caused their partnership to break down, and when Sukarno abandoned parliamentary processes in favot of “guided democracy” in the later I 950s the gulf between them became unbridgeable. The collapse of Sukarno’s re¬gime in confusion and disrepute in 1966 did not lead to Hatta’s return to a formal political position, however; the successor government under Suharto was dominated byti army, an organization which Hatta regarded as corrupt inefficient, and unsuited for governance under any circum-stances.
Mohammad Hatta remained in the background of In¬donesian politics throughout the 1970s except foi a brief period in 1978 when he agreed to serve as general chairmal of the Foundation for the Institute of Constitutional Awareness. The foundation provided a forum for bold expressions of criticism from a wide range of opponents to the Suharto government. It was unable to weaken significantly the army’s control of public institutions, however, and it lost much of the momentum which it may have been gaining when Hatta died on March 14, 1980.