Hasjim Djalal turned 80 on Feb. 25. Internationally, he is known as an expert in the law of the sea ' and as one of the nation's most respected diplomats.
He is also one of the architects of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which was ratified by the UN on Dec. 10, 1982.
Despite his age, Hasjim remains spry and enthusiastic about what has been at the core of his life's work.
'I am attracted to the law of the sea, since it has been efficacious in providing archipelagic nations, such as Indonesia, with justice, so that they can utilize their maritime resources for the people's welfare ' and not be exploited by foreign countries,' he said.
He is not simply a man of reflection, however. Hasjim has been a man of action in fighting for the interests of Indonesia.
He was nicknamed 'UNCLOS Boy' for his success in convincing the international community that Indonesia was entitled to claim all the maritime territory between the baselines connecting the outermost points of its outer islands.
He attributes his success to modesty and hard work. 'My father's teaching while in the village really helped me live a simple life. It is in line with US president Roosevelt's teaching, 'a penny saved is a penny earned', when facing the Great Depression. This is also in strict compliance with Indonesian saying, 'sedia payung sebelum hujan'.'
The phrase means prepare an umbrella before it rains.
On raising a family ' his children include potential Democratic Party presidential candidate and former Indonesian ambassador to the US Dino Patti Djalal ' Hasjim says balance is key.
'The balance between brain and character was essential for my children,' he says.
'Good character is marked by good interpersonal skills and a willingness to do something more than what should be,' Hasjim says. 'People who are deficient in character ' despite their brilliant brains ' tend to act according to the rules and feel quite satisfied if they meet all the requirements. They are not interested in doing things beyond the minimum.'
Hasjim has published several books on Indonesia and the law of the sea, Indonesian maritime policy, the nation's foreign policy and the peace process in Aceh.
While attending the recent launch of his biography, Patriot Negara Kepulauan (Patriot of an Archipelagic Nation) at Andalas University (Unand) in Padang, West Sumatra, Hasjim said that Indonesia was struggling to become a maritime nation, even though it is an archipelago.
'To me, a maritime nation is a nation that knows how to use, protect and defend its maritime space as well as maritime resources,' according to Hasjim. 'In fact, there are a lot of nations that are not geographically 'maritime', but they are capable of making use of maritime resources and space.'
He continues. 'Indonesians, in the past, had been able to make use of maritime space and resources and had traveled to ' and even settled in Madagascar, Champa [mainland Southeast Asia] and Taiwan, as well as far-flung islands in the South Pacific.'
Hasjim says that technology will be key in exploiting the archipelago's resources at sea.
'I hope that for at least the next 50 years the next generation of Indonesians will spend more time studying and developing technology for making use of [maritime] resources, as well as the space of the maritime area around Indonesia.'