ITS– B.J. Habibie became the third President of the Republic of Indonesia when Indonesia was being severely hit by an economic crisis which was characterized with riots in some parts of the country. Additionally, students together with the people strongly forced the government to immediately conduct reforms in all sectors. Student pressure was so heavy on Soeharto (the longest standing president who had officially resigned from his position) Habibie had the huge responsibility and the difficult task to rescue the country from the crisis because he was appointed president so soon after Soeharto’s resignation.
Habibie, a hardworking and highly committed man, is a brilliant graduate of engineering. During his studies in Aachen, Germany he specialized in aircraft construction. He then undertook his postgraduate degree and obtained his Diploma Engineer in aircraft construction and completed his engineering degree in Mechanical and Aircraft Construction at the age of 21. He then undertook his post-graduate degree and obtained his Diploma Engineer in Aircraft Construction from Rheinich-Westfaeliesche Technische Hochschule, Aachen West Germany in 1965. He was the first non-German graduate who wrote a thesis on Aeronautics after World War II.
Following on from his success in aircraft construction, Rudy was also successful in designing submarines, railway coaches and a high temperature space Atomic Rector for the Julich Atomic Center. Habibie was called Mr. Clark for this achievement and then promoted as Vice President for Meeserchmit Bolkow-Blohm (MBB). His high dedication in aeronautics rewarded him and he was awarded of Theodore Van Karman Award.
In 1974, Rudy, as he is usually called in his family, came back to Indonesia by the wishes of President Soeharto to hold several top positions within the central government. Starting with the position of the State Minister for Research and Technology and followed by 25 such positions as Chairman for Technology Research and Development Agency, Chairman for National Strategic Industry, Chairman for National Research Council, Chairman for Batam Industrious Zone Development Authority, President for PT PAL Indonesia (Ship Factory), President for PT Pindad, President for Indonesia Aeronautics Institute, Chairman for Abdi Bangsa Foundation, Chairman for National Defence and Security Industry as well as other top positions. Due to his extensive experience, unsurprisingly Habibie has been well known as a multidimensional figure.
Seemingly, the most distinguished and outstanding Indonesian achievement for Habibie was his design of the Gatot Kaca N250 aircraft which successfully flew for the first time on the 10th November 1995 which coincided with the celebration of the Republic of Indonesia’s Golden Anniversary of Independence. The day was then established as the National Technology Awakening Day, which has also become one of the Six Milestones characterizing the history of Indonesia.
Habibie’s political career became increasingly apparent when he was elected Chairman of Indonesia’s Moslem Intellectuals Association (ICMI) which was founded in 1990. His presence in this association was suspected by many people as political reengineering as to provide Moslem support for Habibie in the political arena. However, Habibie was successful in encountering these critics by working hard in demonstrating his capabilities. Habibie was then also made Daily Chairman for Dewan Pembina Golkar (the ruling party at that time) which was playing a significant role in the 1993-1998 presidential election. During the General Assembly of 1998, Habibie was elected Vice President by the members of the People’s Consultative Assembly to help Soeharto as president.
When Soeharto resigned in May 1998, Habibie was appointed president. Soon after that he formed his cabinet called the Reformation Cabinet in which he committed to building a new government system based on a Law Supreme System.
As a new president, Habibie made some significant breakthroughs in many sectors. In the economic sector for example, the value of the Rupiah which was Rp. 16.000/1US$ at the beginning of his regime, gradually became stronger and floated around the level of Rp. 8000/1US$. Habibie was also successful in strengthening and empowering civil society. Besides that, he made a significant change in press freedom in which press licenses were given to the mass media without any rigid bureaucratic procedures having to take place. During his term many political detainees and prisoners who had been tried unfairly during Soeharto’s regime, were released for which he gained international support for. Another political breakthrough was in conducting a General Election in 1999, which was running peacefully and democratically and was followed by 48 political parties.
The most controversial policy Habibie made during his regime was in finding the best solution for the East Timor Problem in which he offered two options, i.e. Extensive Autonomy or Independence. The agreement was signed by both parties (Indonesia and Portugal) on the 5th May 1999. Such Policy was strongly criticized by many people because it violated the TAP MPR No. VI/1978, which stipulated the integration of East Timor into Indonesia. Critics mounted as the result of the Referendum conducted by UN in East Timor was won by the Pro Independence people with 78,5 % votes. It was this policy that made the majority of the People Consultative Assembly members to reject his Presidential Speech in the 1999 General Assembly. At the same time he resigned from nominating himself for the presidency.
After his resignation from the political arena, particularly from the president nomination, Habibie has made a decision to devote his life in a NGO he founded together with his friends. This organization engages in two important issues such as human rights and democratization. He named this organization Habibie Center, which was officially opened on the 21st May 2000.