Muhammad Hatta

Muhammad Hatta (1950)
Muhammad Hatta (1950)

The first vice president of Indonesia, Muhammad Hatta was born on born August 12, 1902, in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. He had his early education in the Dutch schools of Padang and Batavia. He was in the Netherlands from 1922 to 1932, where he studied in Rotterdam and involved himself in political activities.

He along with Minangkabau Sultan Sjahrir (1909–66) joined the Indische Vereeniging (Indies' Student Society) and became instrumental in changing the social club into a politically important association, the Perhimpunan Indonesia (Indonesian Union), in 1922.

Hatta established Perhimpunan Mahasiswa Indonesia (Indonesian Students Association), becoming its chairperson in 1926. He joined the League against Imperialism and attended the Brussels meeting in February 1927. After returning to the Netherlands, he was imprisoned by the Dutch government but was released in 1928.

Hatta came back to Indonesia in 1932 and found the Partai Nasional Indonesia (PNI, Nationalist Party of Indonesia) faction-ridden after the arrest of its leader, Sukarno. Hatta believed in building up cadres who would be active in nationalist agendas.

The Pendidikan Nasional Indonesia (Indonesian National Education Club) was formed from a splinter group of the PNI. Sukarno tried to bring different nationalist groups together after his release into a mass organization called Partai Indonesia (Partindo, Indonesian Party).

It was short lived, as the leaders of the Indonesian nationalist movement were put behind bars by the reactionary governor-general of the Dutch government, De Jonge (1931–36). Sukarno was exiled in 1933, and the following year Hatta and Sjahrir were assigned to penal camps. The nationalist struggle was effectively suppressed by the policy of repression.

The banishment of the leaders was over after the Japanese entered the country in March 1942. The Japanese desire to use the leaders in their war effort opened new avenues for the leaders. On August 17, 1945, two days after Japan surrendered to the Allies, Sukarno and Hatta proclaimed independence and established the Republic of Indonesia. Sukarno was elected president, and Hatta became the vice president. The Dutch returned, and the republic was attacked in 1947 and 1948.

The archipelago was divided between republican-held territory and that being reoccupied by the Dutch. The republic's capital was captured, and most of its top leaders, including Sukarno and Hatta, were arrested and exiled. The world reaction was sharp, and the UN Security Council ordered an immediate cease-fire. Hatta presided over the delegation sent to The Hague for negotiating with the Dutch.

The Hague Agreement of December 27, 1949, transferred sovereignty to the Indonesian federal government. On August 17, 1950, the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia was restored. Hatta was again premier in 1949 and 1950. He was vice president until 1956. He devoted the rest of his life to the development of cooperatives. The humble and much respected leader died on March 14, 1980, in Jakarta.