Rachmawati Sukarnoputri, 70, Sibling Rival in Indonesia Politics, Dies


Mrs. Rachmawati entered politics after the fall of Suharto, helping to found the Pioneers’ Party in 2002. But it won only a tiny number of seats in Parliament. She joined the Nasdem Party in 2012 but quickly left it to join the Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra, the party of Suharto’s son-in-law Prabowo Subianto. At her death she was on its board of trustees.

“Rachmawati always sided with anyone who opposed her eldest sister, including Prabowo,” said Andreas Harsono, a Human Rights Watch researcher who wrote a book about the early days of Indonesia, “Race, Islam and Power” (2019), and who knows the Sukarno siblings.

“It is a dysfunctional family,” he said.

Mrs. Rachmawati was accused of being involved in a plot in 2016 to rally hard-line Islamists to kidnap the Christian governor of Jakarta. She was one of 11 people arrested on treason charges related to the plot but was released a day later, denying that she had been involved and saying, “How could I be doing treason against the country that my father helped found?”

The Jakarta governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, was a close ally of President Joko Widodo, whose Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle was headed by Mrs. Megawati.

Diah Permana Rachmawati Sukarno was born in Jakarta on Sept. 27, 1950, to Sukarno and his third wife, Fatmawati, who was considered his official consort for ceremonial occasions. Rachmawati was the third of five children of that marriage and had several half-siblings from Sukarno’s eight other marriages.

Like Mrs. Megawati, she took on the patronymic Sukarnoputri, meaning daughter of Sukarno, to emphasize the connection to their father.

When she was 3, her mother left the palace in protest of Sukarno’s plans to take a new wife, and Rachmawati was raised mainly by a foster mother.



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