IN November 1945, Sutan Sjahrir, then only 36 years old, was appointed Prime Minister by President Sukarno. Despite his young age, Sjahrir had extensive experience as a resilient and integral politician.

He was among the 10 young visionaries who initiated the formation of Jong Indonesiƫ, which later evolved into Pemuda Indonesia. This organization was a driving force behind the Indonesian Youth Congress that gave birth to the historic Youth Pledge.

During his law studies at the University of Amsterdam, Sjahrir actively participated in movements against colonialism. Returning to Indonesia in 1931, he joined the PNI-Baru, founded by Bung Hatta after the original PNI led by Bung Karno was disbanded.

The PNI-Baru evolved into a cadre party feared by the colonial regime. Both Sjahrir and Hatta were arrested and exiled to Boven Digoel, Papua, and later transferred to Banda Neira for six years, alongside Bung Karno.

During the Japanese occupation, Sjahrir parted ways with Sukarno-Hatta. There were views that they deliberately adopted different tactics in their struggle. While Sukarno-Hatta collaborated with Japan, Sjahrir operated underground.

For Sjahrir, this was not just a matter of tactics but an ideological principle. He believed that while the colonial-capitalist regime was untrustworthy, the Japanese fascist regime was even more so.

After World War II, the Dutch sought to re-establish their colonial rule but faced staunch resistance from Indonesia. Willing to negotiate, they refused to do so with former Japanese collaborators. Sjahrir, untainted by collaboration, became the logical choice to lead negotiations on behalf of Indonesia, hence his appointment as Prime Minister.

What I aim to highlight is that Sjahrir did not ascend to government leadership because of his family’s status, despite his father holding a high-ranking position. He also did not use his uncle’s position to be nominated as Prime Minister.

His achievements were the result of his convictions, ideological principles, and a long journey of struggle for his people and country. As part of a prominent noble dynasty, he could have comfortably pursued his studies, with various positions and careers already laid out for him.

However, that was not Sjahrir’s way. For him, positions were inconsequential. They were merely consequences of struggle, a means to an end, and not something provided by his father or as a gift from an authoritarian regime.

This is what true youth should embody. Armed with ideals and the conviction of being on the right path, they should be willing to leave behind comforts, oppose all forms of authoritarianism, and see hardships, pain, and poverty as mere romantic aspects of the struggle.

The youth should be individuals capable of inspiring, not those who evoke disgust and revulsion.

* Weko Kuncara, Laborer, residing in Gresik



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