Ali Murtopo
Ali Murtopo was a prominent Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

n general and political figure during the first half of General Suharto's New Order
New Order (Indonesia)
The New Order is the term coined by former Indonesian President Suharto to characterize his regime as he came to power in 1966. Suharto used this term to contrast his rule with that of his predecessor, Sukarno...


Early life

Ali Murtopo was born on 23 September 1924 in Blora, Central Java and received his education in Central Java and West Java.

Military career

As a teenager, Ali joined Hizbullah but would eventually join the Indonesian Military
Military of Indonesia
The Indonesian National Armed Forces in 2009 comprises approximately 432,129 personnel including the Army , Navy including the Indonesian Marine Corps and the Air Force ....

. During the Indonesian National Revolution
Indonesian National Revolution
The Indonesian National Revolution or Indonesian War of Independence was an armed conflict and diplomatic struggle between Indonesia and the Dutch Empire, and an internal social revolution...

, Ali became a staff member in a brigade led by Ahmad Yani
Ahmad Yani
General Ahmad Yani was the commander of the Indonesian Army, and was killed by members of the 30 September Movement during an attempt to kidnap him from his house.-Early life:...

. In 1952, Ali became a company
Company (military unit)
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure...

 Commander in Ahmad Yani's Banteng Raiders, an elite group of soldiers formed to chase away the remnants of the Darul Islam movement.

In 1956, whilst still in command of his Banteng Raider unit, Ali was involved in the lobbying to decide who should become the Commander of the 4th Military Territory (TT IV) Diponegoro
Diponegoro , also known as Dipanegara, was a Javanese prince who opposed the Dutch colonial rule. He played an important role in the Java War...

, which supervised the security of the Provinces of Central Java and Yogyakarta. Although the Army Headquarters in Jakarta had decided on a candidate, those within TT IV Diponegoro, led by Yoga Sugama wanted the then Lieutenant Colonel Suharto to become the next TT IV Commander. Yoga met various officers within TT IV Diponegoro to look for support and Ali for his part, gave his support to Suharto. After getting enough support, Yoga went to Jakarta to inform the Army Headquarters of who the soldiers at TT IV Diponegoro wanted as their Commander. The Army Headquarters relented and Suharto was appointed Commander.

As a reward, Ali was appointed as Territorial Assistant to Suharto with Yoga occupying the position of Intelligence Assistant. Together with Sujono Humardhani, who was in charge of finance, the four would go up the ranks together. In 1959, Ali took part in the fighting against the Republic of Indonesia Revolutionary Government (PRRI), a separatist group from Sumatra. He was sent to fight in Sumatra as a Regimental Chief of Staff with Yoga as the Regiment Commander.

1959 was also the year in which Suharto was dismissed from his position as TT IV Commander as a result of him being involved in illegal activities. Ali stayed on with TT IV which was now renamed KODAM VII/Diponegoro until early 1961, when he rejoined Suharto. Suharto was now the Operations Assistant to the Army Chief of Staff, General A H Nasution
Abdul Haris Nasution
In this Indonesian name, the name "Nasution" is a family name, and the person should be referred to by the family name "Nasution".Abdul Haris Nasution was an Indonesian general who was twice appointed Army Chief of Staff and who escaped an assassination attempt during the...

 and was now the Commander of the Army General Reserve (Caduad), a strategic force unit which would be on standby, ready to be called into battle at any time. Ali received the position of Assistant to the Caduad Chief of Staff. In 1963, Caduad would change its name to the Army Strategic Command Kostrad
Kostrad is the Indonesian Army's Strategic Reserve Command. Kostrad is a Corps level command which has up to 35,000 troops...


During the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation
Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation
Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation during 1962–1966 was Indonesia’s political and armed opposition to the creation of Malaysia. It is also known by its Indonesian/Malay name Konfrontasi...

 that had begun in 1963, Kostrad had been expected to play a vital role by virtue of Suharto being appointed Deputy Commander of the Alert Theater Command (Kolaga), a battle command headed by Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Air marshal is a three-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

 Omar Dhani
Omar Dhani
Air Marshal Omar Dani, , was commander of the Indonesian Air Force from 1962 until 1965. He was a leading leftist figure in Indonesia during the Sukarno era....

 and which had been formed for the purpose of fighting a war against Malaysia. The Army however was not enthusiastic about Confrontation and dragged its feet. Ali, now the Intelligence Assistant at Kostrad would become involved with this process. Using his Special Operations (Opsus) unit, Ali sent out messages to the Malaysian Government to inform them about the Army's stance on Confrontation and to ask the Malaysian Government to consider a peaceful solution to Confrontation.

Transition to New Order

On the morning of 1 October 1965, Ali found himself hastily summoned to the Kostrad Headquarters to address a rapidly developing incident. The morning had seen six Generals being kidnapped and unidentified troops occupying the Presidential Palace, the National Monument, and the Republic of Indonesia Radio (RRI) building. Suharto arrived at the scene, just in time to hear an announcement by a group calling themselves the 30 September Movement
30 September Movement
The Thirtieth of September Movement ) was a self-proclaimed organization of Indonesian National Armed Forces members who, in the early hours of 1 October 1965, assassinated six Indonesian Army generals in an abortive coup d'état. Later that morning, the organization declared that it was in control...

 saying that they had just stopped a coup attempt by a Council of Generals. With Army Commander Ahmad Yani nowhere to be found, Suharto decided to assume the leadership of the Army in order to address the incident.

The first thing to be done was to identify the unidentified troops occupying the strategic locations in Jakarta. It was soon found out that the troops were Battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s 454 and 530 from Central and East Java. After getting this information, Suharto sent Ali on a negotiation mission to Battalion 454. Ali conveyed Suharto's warning that the Battalion had until 6 PM to surrender but ultimately failed to convince them as Battalion 454 chose instead to retreat to Halim Airbase, the command post of the 30 September Movement. Nevertheless, the victory that day belonged to Suharto who regained control of Jakarta by the morning of 2 October 1965.

When Suharto was appointed Commander of the Army, Ali became part of Suharto's Personal Staff and together with Yoga looked after intelligence matters. Ali was by Suharto's side as the latter began his rise to power. In early 1966, as the Army encouraged student protesters to demonstrate against President Sukarno
Sukarno, born Kusno Sosrodihardjo was the first President of Indonesia.Sukarno was the leader of his country's struggle for independence from the Netherlands and was Indonesia's first President from 1945 to 1967...

, Ali played his part by assigning Kostrad troops to protect the protesters from troops loyal to the President. The political unrest finally ended on 11 March 1966 when Sukarno handed over executive authority to Suharto through Supersemar
The Supersemar, the Indonesian abbreviation for Surat Perintah Sebelas Maret was a document signed by the Indonesian President Sukarno on March 11, 1966, giving the Army commander Lt. Gen. Suharto authority to take whatever measures he "deemed necessary" to restore order to the chaotic situation...


With Suharto now holding all the political power, there was now an official effort to end Confrontation. Ali laid the groundwork for the rapprochement before official diplomacy was undertaken by Minister of Foreign Affairs Adam Malik
Adam Malik
Adam Malik Batubara was Indonesia's third vice president, a senior diplomat, and one of the pioneers of Indonesian journalism.-Early life:...


First Years

Ali's power would increase after Suharto was elected Acting President and full President by the Provisional People's Consultative Assembly
People's Consultative Assembly
The People's Consultative Assembly is the legislative branch in Indonesia's political system. It is composed of the members of the People's Representative Council and the Regional Representative Council. Before 2004, and the amendments to the 1945 Constitution, the MPR was the highest governing...

 (MPRS) in 1967 and 1968 respectively. In 1967, Ali became the Deputy Head of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (Bakin) but his real power was derived from his positions as a member of the President's team of Personal Assistants (Aspri
The Asisten Pribadi or better known by its acronym, Aspri, was President of Indonesia Suharto's team of advisors from its formation in 1968 until it was disbanded in early 1974.-History:Aspri was the successor institution to the personal staff...

) and as the Head of Opsus. As an Aspri, Ali's power came from the fact that he had Suharto's ear and that together with other Aspri members such as Sujono, he was one of a group of few people who Suharto consulted regularly for advice. As the Head of Opsus, Ali was the head of an extraconstitutional agency which had broad and undefined powers. In this capacity, he was only answerable to Suharto himself.

In 1969, together with Sarwo Edhie Wibowo
Sarwo Edhie Wibowo
Sarwo Edhie Wibowo was one of Indonesia's most famous Generals.-Early life:Sarwo Edhie was born in Purworejo, Central Java to a family of civil servants working for the Dutch Colonial Government. As a child, he learned silat as a form of self-defense...

, Ali was assigned by Suharto to make sure that the people of West Papua (then known as Irian Jaya) voted for integration with Indonesia in the Act of Free Choice
Act of Free Choice
Act of Free Choice was an event in July to August 1969 by which Indonesia asserts that the Western New Guinea population decided to relinquish their sovereignty in favor of Indonesian citizenship...

. In ensuring this, Ali's focus was the Act of Free Choice Consultative Council (Dewan Musyawarah Pepera), a group of 1,025 West Papuans who will vote on behalf of the whole West Papuan population. Ali used intimidation, at one point telling the West Papuans that they can go and settle on the moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

 if they do not vote for integration.

Ali also took measures to further strengthen the position of the New Order regime. In 1970, Ali actively interfered in the internal affairs of the Indonesian National Party
Indonesian National Party
The Indonesian National Party is the same used by several political parties in Indonesia from 1927 until the present day.-Pre-independence:...

 (PNI) and the Indonesian Muslim Party (Parmusi). In both cases, Ali interfered to make sure that the leadership of both parties were not hostile towards Suharto's Government. In 1971, Ali also popularized the concept of the "Floating Mass" which sought to depoliticize Indonesian society and cut down on the influence of political parties.

Perhaps more importantly, Ali set down the mechanisms by which Suharto would be able to be re-elected for the Presidency. After deciding on the Joint Secretariat of the Functional Groups (Sekber Golkar
The Party of the Functional Groups is a political party in Indonesia. It is also known as Sekber Golkar . It was the ruling party during Suharto's regime...

) as his political party, Suharto ordered Ali to begin preparing Sekber Golkar for the 1971 Legislative Election. Ali did so by laying down a party platform
Party platform
A party platform, or platform sometimes also referred to as a manifesto, is a list of the actions which a political party, individual candidate, or other organization supports in order to appeal to the general public for the purpose of having said peoples' candidates voted into political office or...

 based on development, stability, order, and unity to attract voters. To further ensure the prospects of victory, Ali made sure that the Government threw its support behind Golkar and mobilized the populace to vote for Golkar. This he did by allocating quotas of the amount of vote to be won for Government officials at lower levels of Government. Ali's preparation paid off and on 5 July 1971, Golkar won the Legislative Elections with 62.5% of the votes. This was followed by Suharto's re-election to the Presidency by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) in 1973.

Although he held a lot of power and influence, Ali was by no means a popular figure. Among the critics of the regime, Ali, like his Aspri colleagues were disliked for the amount of power that they held despite the lack of clarity given to their roles. Ali was also unpopular amongst some colleagues for using his access to Suharto to erode their influence. At one point, he used this access to recommend an ally for the position of Provincial Governor; whereas if the proper procedures were adhered to, it would be up to the Minister of Home Affairs to recommend the appointment of a Governor to the President.

Rivalry with General Sumitro

As Suharto began his second term as President, he did not have the amount of popularity that he had when he took the office from Sukarno. As 1973 wore on, there was increasing displeasure, especially within universities with corruption, the amount of foreign investment in the Indonesian economy, and the power held by Aspri. At the same time, a rivalry was developing within the political elite. On one side was Ali, who advocated the military's continuing involvement with politics. On the other side was General Sumitro
Sumitro was a prominent Indonesian General in the early years of General Suharto's New Order before suddenly falling from grace in January 1974 after the Malari incident.-Early life:...

, the Commander of the Restoration of Security and Order Operation Command (Kopkamtib), Indonesia's secret police
Secret police
Secret police are a police agency which operates in secrecy and beyond the law to protect the political power of an individual dictator or an authoritarian political regime....

 agency. Sumitro wanted the military to cut down its involvement in politics and to reduce its role to a purely professional one. Towards the end of 1973, Sumitro began to distance himself from the Government. He did not take action against the criticism and dissent directed at the regime although it was well within his brief to do so. In fact, Sumitro began holding talks in university campuses and calling for a new leadership. As 1973 drew to a close, Suharto tried to mediate the two rivals through a series of meetings but he did not succeed.

On 14 January 1974, Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka
Kakuei Tanaka
was a Japanese politician and the 64th and 65th Prime Minister of Japan from 7 July 1972 to 22 December 1972 and from 22 December 1972 to 9 December 1974 respectively...

 arrived in Jakarta for a visit. Tanaka's visit provided the ideal opportunity for those who are critical of the amount of foreign investment in the Indonesian economy to protest and express their displeasure. On the 15 and 16 January however, the protests turned violent and riots broke out in Jakarta leaving 11 dead, 300 injured, and 775 arrested. On first glance, it would seem as if the blame was Sumitro's. Based on the riots that ensued, it looked as if he had made the wrong decision by allowing the demonstrators to protest. But there is a theory that Ali had sent his agents into the crowd to incite the violence so that Sumitro could be discredited

After Tanaka left, Suharto took action against Sumitro. Sumitro resigned the Commandership of Kopkamtib and followed it up with his resignation from the Deputy Commandership of ABRI two months later. To his chagrin however, Ali did not survive the incident intact. Suharto had decided to address some of the criticisms that had been raised by his critics, including the matter of the amount of power that the Aspri had. Suharto responded to this criticism by disbanding Aspri altogether and thus depriving Ali of a considerable amount of his power.

Latter Years

After Aspri was disbanded, Murtopo did not have as much power or the leeway to use it as he did in the first few years of the regime. He was however still loyal to Suharto and in turn, Suharto still had confidence in him. When the matter of East Timor
East Timor
The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, commonly known as East Timor , is a state in Southeast Asia. It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor...

's decolonization emerged, Murtopo was entrusted with heading Operasi Komodo in early 1975, a covert operation set up with the hopes of having East Timor integrate with Indonesia with the help of pro-Indonesian forces in East Timor and without Indonesia having to resort to military means. He was also part of the diplomacy, being sent as a special envoy to Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

 to gauge the opinion of East Timor's then colonial rulers and give a warning to the East Timorese in August 1975 that Indonesia would not tolerate an independent East Timor under the government of Fretilin.

In 1977, Murtopo was plagued by health problems but nevertheless he still had ambitions for the future; hoping that he would either be made the Head of Bakin or become the Minister of Home Affairs. Ali got neither position, being named instead in 1978 as the Minister of Information in the Third Development Cabinet
Third Development Cabinet
The Third Development Cabinet was the Indonesian Cabinet which served under President Suharto and Vice President Adam Malik. The Cabinet was formed after Suharto was elected to a third term as president by the People's Consultative Assembly ....

. After five years serving as a Minister, Murtopo became the Vice Chairman of the Supreme Advisory Council (DPA).
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