People

In memoriam: Rosihan Anwar,
the Last Mohican

JP/Ricky Yudhistira

In a 2009 interview with this paper senior journalist Rosihan Anwar said: “I will continue to write until I drop dead”. He kept his word.

The man known as “the last Mohicans of Indonesian journalism” died on Thursday of old age and heart problems. He was 88.

Rosihan was rushed to MMC Hospital in Kuningan area Thursday due to heart problems. He underwent a heart surgery at Harapan Kita Heart Hospital last month.

The polyglot is survived by his three children, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. In September last year, his wife Siti Zuraidah passed away at MMC hospital.

Fellow journalists called the late Rosihan a “true journalist”.

“He felt that being a journalist was his life’s calling, and that is why he remained faithful to his death,” Kompas founder Jacob Oetama, said.

The senior journalist added that Rosihan had a remarkable appetite for reading and writing.

“He wrote very proficiently. And a good journalist in my view has tendencies of a writer,” Jacob added.

He further said that Rosihan had been working on a memoir recounting his love story with his wife, titled Soulmates: The memoirs of love and romance of Rosihan Anwar and Zuraidah Sanawi.

Jacob said he would get the book printed “as soon as possible”.

The senior journalist wrote more than 40 books. His latest was a biography on national hero Sutan Sjahrir published last year.

The head of the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI), Margiono, said Rosihan was “everything for the press society”.

“He won the Spirit Award last year, the highest award in journalism, because he dedicated himself to this world to the very last second,” he added.

He further said that Rosihan wrote endlessly.

“His work flowed much stronger than his breath,” he added.

With a nose for news and pen of a journalist, he lived through the Dutch colonial period, the Japanese occupation, the country’s independence, Soeharto’s New Order and the current reform era.

Born on May 10, 1922 in Kubang Nan Dua, West Sumatra, Rosihan completed his studies at the Dutch elementary school for natives or Holland Inlandesche School (HIS) in 1935 and the Dutch colonial secondary school or Meer Uitgebreid Lager Onderwijs (MULO) in 1939, both in Padang.

He continued his education at the prestigious Dutch colonial high school or Algemeene Middelbare School (AMS) in 1942 in Yogyakarta.

Rosihan said he stumbled into journalism, after securing a job at Asia Raya, the only newspaper the Japanese occupier allowed to be circulated at that time. He met his wife at Asia Raya.  

He initially wanted to go to the Netherlands to study philology. However, he needed money. “Fate brought me to journalism,” he said in a 2009 interview.

After Indonesia’s independence, Rosihan became editor of the Merdeka daily newspaper until he quit in 1947. He founded Pedoman newspaper in 1948 and became its chief editor. Both Indonesian presidents Soekarno and Soeharto banned the publication because of its critical stance toward their regimes. Soekarno forcibly closed the newspaper in 1961, and Soeharto in 1974.

He once refused a posting as Indonesian ambassador in Vietnam from Soeharto. His wife said it was pointless for them to go to Vietnam while their children stayed in Indonesia. He said his refusal angered Soeharto.

Rosihan has worked as a freelance journalist and columnist for Asiaweek and correspondent for The Straits Times and The New Straits Times.

He was also involved in the Indonesian film industry. With Usmar Ismail he founded Indonesia Film Company (Perfini) in early 1950. He acted in several films, such as Lagi-lagi krisis (Crisis again), Karmila, and Tjoet Nja’ Dien.

Senior actress Christine Hakim who played a leading role in Tjoet Nja Dien, recalled the late senior journalist Rosihan as a fatherly figure and the ideal family man.

“He is the portrait of an ideal father who devoted time to his family,” she said at Rosihan’s wake.

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