Speech Aljosja van Dorssen on presenting the Linggadjati Award 2015 to Dr Arifin M. Siregar

28 Apr 2015

Bapak Arifin Siregar and family members, Excellency’s and distinguished speakers, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honor and personal pleasure for me to introduce Dr Arifin Siregar to you today and highlight many of his achievements, both in general as well as in the context of the Indonesian Dutch relationship.

These very valuable achievements collectively made the Board of the Indonesia Nederland Society decide that out of many excellent candidates, Dr Siregar came out on top to be awarded the Linggarjati Award in 2015.

The Indonesian Nederland Society gives the Linggarjati Award periodically to those individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the relationship between Indonesia and the Netherlands. The Award is named after a village called Linggarjati, about an hour outside of Cirebon and about 3 hours to the east of Jakarta, where the Indonesian and Dutch governments negotiated the Linggarjati Peace Agreement in November 1946. The negotiations, which lasted three days, were held in the house in which Mrs. Ibu Joty ter Kulve, one of our seminar delegates, grew up as a young girl. During the negotiations the Indonesian President Sukarno and the Dutch former Prime Minister Willem Schermerhorn had an overnight stay in this house, which enhanced their personal contact. This wonderful colonial house is now a museum to commemorate the Peace Agreement and I had the personal pleasure two years ago to visit it.

Off course, Arifin Siregar does not need any introduction to the former Dutch Ministers and other Excellency’s who are seated in the first few rows today, as they have become close friends with Dr Siregar for a number of decades. The fact that so many dignitaries are honoring Dr Siregar today with their presence is clear evidence of their deep sense of friendship and great deal of respect for him.

To those of you not so familiar yet with Dr Siregar, please allow me to run through his amazing 81-year life in a whirlwind.

Dr. Siregar was born in Medan in 1934 and he graduated from the Dutch CAS Lyceum in Jakarta in 1953. In the same year, he went to the Netherlands for studying business economics at the Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool (NEH) in Rotterdam. He decided to become a member of the Rotterdamsch Studenten Corps, as evidenced by the Almanak from 1958, where one can read in the Senaatsverslag on page 48, 5th line, that: “ At midnight on 22nd of January (presumably referring to the prior year), Mohammed Arifin was installed as a member”.

As he was preparing to take his final exams for his Doctorandus degree in 1958, however, he was summoned by President Sukarno to leave The Netherlands, as the Indonesian and Dutch government broke of all diplomatic relations. At the recommendation of Prof Dr Jan Tinbergen, Dr Siregar continued his study at the Munster University in Germany, where he obtained his Master and PhD degrees in economics (magna cum laude) in 1958 and 1960 respectively.

Dr Siregar started his working career with the United Nations Secretariat General in New York and Beirut, followed by four years as Economist at the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC between 1965 and 1969. He was then sent to Vientienne as IMF Resident Representative and Economic Adviser to the Loation Government till 1971.

Thereafter he spends no less then 25 years serving the Indonesian Government. Dr Siregar was the Deputy Governor of Bank Indonesia, Indonesia’s Central Bank, between 1971-1983, and the Governor of Bank Indonesia between 1983-1988. After his Central Banking career, he became the Minister of Trade between 1988-1993 and the Indonesian Ambassador to the United States of America between 1993-1997. In his capacity as the official of Bank of Indonesia, he was concurrently the Alternate Governor of the International Monetary Fund for Indonesia, the Alternate Governor of the Islamic Development Bank for Indonesia, and the Governor of the World Bank for Indonesia during the period 1973-1988.

During his service for the Indonesian Government, Dr. Siregar was also Chief Advisor or a member of the Indonesian delegations to various important international and regional conferences, such as the APEC, the GATT Uruguay Round, ASEAN, the Intergovernmental Group on Indonesia or IGGI, the Committee on Reform of the International Monetary System and various Committees of the IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

After his services for the Indonesian government, Dr Siregar became an International Advisor to Goldman Sachs between 1998-2006 and he was President Commissioner of Medco Energy until 2008 and Director of Sime Derby from Malaysia until 2010.

At present, Dr Siregar is still the Chairman of the Strategic Advisory Board of Ancora Capital Management, Advisor to Proctor & Gamble, Advisor to Oliver Wyman management consultants and is on the Board of Commissioners of a few local Indonesian companies. And all that at the age of 81!

In the area of professional and social activities, Dr Siregar is a member of the Board of Governors of the Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines, a member of the Board of Trustees of the World Wide Fund for Nature, (WWF) Indonesia, the Co-Chairman of the US-Indonesia Society (USINDO) and a member of the Board of Governors of the Indonesia-Netherlands Association (INA).

Previously, Dr Siregar was also the Chairman of the Indonesian German Chamber of Commerce (EKONID) and the Indonesian Council of World Affairs (ICWA).

Throughout his career Dr Siregar has always felt and realized that the historical ties between Indonesia and the Netherlands and its people are filled with a variety of delicate and sensitive elements. The relationship between our two beloved countries over a long period of time, has swung backwards and forwards like a pendulum. This pendulum swung again the wrong way in the early 1990’s after the Dutch Minister for Development Aid at the time, was perceived by the Indonesian government to tie economic development aid to certain demands on human rights (especially in Timor) and ecology.

In April 1992, after Indonesia unilaterally decided to end the development cooperation relation with the Netherlands and asked the Netherlands to leave the IGGI, Dr Siregar was sent as a special envoy by President Suharto to The Netherlands to improve the sharply deteriorating relations between the two counties. During this visit Dr. Siregar gave a number of important speeches to Dutch government and business audiences in order to explain the position and intentions from the Indonesian perspective. Dr. Siregar was able to convey the complex and sensitive messages in such a way that the audiences understood the position of Indonesia and felt warm towards its intentions to even deepen the relationship in other areas then development aid. The audiences showed their strong positive feelings with long standing ovations. For all these efforts, Dr Siregar was awarded het Grootkruis in de Orde van Oranje Nassau in November 1993 by then Queen Beatrix, as an appreciation for his efforts to improve the relations between the two countries.

In later years, Dr Siregar continued to foster the relationship between Indonesia and the Netherlands and was involved in the management of the Witteveen Dekker Foundation, established by Johannes Witteveen, who is also present in the audience today. This foundation provided each year a number of scholarships to Indonesian students to study in the Netherlands. Although this Foundation has not recently been able to support Indonesian students, Dr Siregar and Bapak Kwik Kian Gie, who was also a former Indonesian Minister and Erasmus alumnus, have recently met to revive the funding.

I have had the privilege to become one of Dr Siregar’s Dutch friends only during the last 18 months. We met for the first time early last year when I was asked to interview him on the occasion of the centennale celebrations of the Rotterdam Studenten Corps, of which we are both alumni. He graciously invited me for an extraordinary luncheon and brought half a dozen other Erasmus alumni living in Jakarta along. Dr Siregar spoke at length how his thinking had been influenced by the book “Indonesian deliberations” which Sutan Sjahrir, who later became Indonesia’s first Prime Minister, wrote when he was imprisoned by the Dutch in the mid-1930 on Banda Neira Island in the Maluku archipelago.

After I read the book and went to visit the Banda islands in October of last year myself, including the houses where Sjahrir and Mohammad Hatta were held by the Dutch, I became deeply aware about the feelings and desire to be free, which many of the Indonesian intellectuals must have felt at that time.

I am sure that Dr. Siregar was pleased that the Erasmus University last year inaugurated the Mohammad Hatta building to underscore that drive for independence of one its former students.

Dr Siregar also spoke about the importance of his Dutch education to his later career. He was especially grateful for everything he had learned from Professor Witteveen and Professor Tinbergen. When asked, if he had enjoyed his time at the Rotterdamsch Studenten Corps, he politely but candidly replied that he met some very interesting and talented people there but that he did not necessary enjoyed all the heavy drinking!

Since that first meeting 18 months ago, I have had the pleasure to meet up with Dr Siregar every few months when I was in Jakarta. I have come to realize how deeply he cares for the Indonesian-Dutch relationship to be in harmony. Only mutual respect and deep understanding of each other’s culture, perspectives, intentions and tone of language, will keep this precious relationship in good balance.

For all his notable contributions to the relationship between Indonesia and the Netherlands, the Executive Board and the Board of Trustees of the Indonesian Nederland Society are extremely honored that Dr. Siregar has decided to accept the Linggarjati Award for the year 2015 and that he today, in the presence of no less then seven family members and many of his close Dutch friends and distinguished guests, is able to personally receive this award.

I don’t think that I exaggerate to say that everybody here today, and also the wider Dutch society at large, is immensely grateful for all you have done Dr Siregar, and we are all very fond of you! I know you are Indonesian, but you are one of us too!

May I now invite Mr. Wim van Eekelen, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Indonesia Nederland Society to the podium, to hand the Linggarjati Award to Dr Siregar.