Remembering Taroenamihardja, first Attorney General of Indonesia

Remembering Taroenamihardja, first Attorney General of Indonesia

A framed photo of the first Indonesian Attorney General, Raden Gatot Taroenamihardja, after the process of his re-burial at the Adhyaksa Cemetery, Cibinong, Bogor District, West Java, on Thursday (November 25, 2021). (ANTARA/HO-Legal Information Center of the Office of the Attorney General).

All through his life, he had fulfilled the mandate and dedicated all his best to make the prosecutor's institution a great foundation in realizing strong law enforcement. He contributed positively, so we can feel the benefits today.
After being delayed for two years, the grave transfer of Indonesia's first Attorney General, Raden Gatot Taroenamihardja, was finally realized.

Taroenamihardja's burial site was relocated from the Menteng Pulo Cemetery, Tebet, South Jakarta, to Adhyaksa (Chief Justices') Corps Cemetery in Bogor District, West Java.

The grave transfer was conducted during an official ceremony attended by Adhyaksa personnel and ranks of the Indonesian Attorneys Association (PJI) as well as its leader, Setia Untung Arimuladi, who is concurrently the Deputy Attorney General.

The event of relocating the grave was initiated with exhuming the body and then moving it to a casket and thereafter transporting it to the Adhyaksa graveyard in Cibinong.

Arimuladi led the tomb relocation ceremony that was approved by Taroenamihardja's heirs and the current Attorney General as PJI's guardian.

For Adhyaksa members, Taroenamihardja, who is remembered as the first and the fifth Attorney General of the Republic of Indonesia, was also an icon, who is deemed to be an assertive, great attorney.

At the opening of the 2020 prosecutor’s office work meeting, President Joko Widodo had stated that prosecutors are the face of law enforcement.

Thus, Taroenamihardja, as the country's first attorney general, has shown the right, affirmative law enforcement as an example for his successors.

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Despite holding the post of the first attorney general for a brief period from August 12, 1945, to October 22, 1945, he was trusted again in the same position 14 years later in 1959.

During his lifetime, Taroenamihardja handled several cases, including related to corruption.

"All through his life, he had fulfilled the mandate and dedicated all his best to make the prosecutor's institution a great foundation in realizing strong law enforcement. He contributed positively, so we can feel the benefits today," Arimuladi explained.

Life journey

Taroenamihardja, who held the Meester in de Rechten or the law school graduate degree in the Dutch colonization era, was the second child of six siblings. He was born in Sukabumi, West Java, on November 24, 1901.

Cited from PJI's written statement, Taroenamihardja's life journey to becoming the first Attorney General of the Republic of Indonesia all began when he gained legal skills at Batavia Rechtsschool, Dutch East Indies, in 1920.

He graduated at 19 and started to intern at a district court. Two years later, he decided to continue his legal studies in Rijksuniversiteit Leiden, Dutch.

During his studies, Taroenamihardja was active in a youth organization called "Perhimpoenan," or literally means an association in English. In the 1920s, the organization became an important platform for social unity that promoted the independence of Indonesia.

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Taroenamihardja's active role in the organization that voiced Indonesian independence turned out to have an impact on his family. The Dutch threatened and blackmailed his family, asking them to stop sending money to him for education.

Nevertheless, that threat failed to deter Taroenamihardja in his pursuit to complete his studies and fund himself. He finally chose to work at a bakery in the Brussels city of Belgium.

In 1927, he was arrested on grounds of not being able to provide a health report for Dutch conscription activities. However, in the same year, he was able to finish his law school and return to Indonesia to become a legal advisor or advocate for indigenous Indonesians in Cirebon and Tegal.

After returning to and working in Indonesia, Taroenamihardja joined the Staatspartij Indonesian Nationalist Party. His active part in the organization resulted in his arrest by the Dutch along with soon-to-be two of the four founding fathers of Indonesia, Bung Karno and Bung Hatta, in 1929.

During the Japanese occupation, he became Tihoo Hoin, or Chief Justice, at the Purwokerto District Court. On August 19, 1945, two days after Indonesia declared its Independence and the first cabinet was formed, he was appointed as the first Attorney General of Indonesia.

He was appointed as Attorney General of the Republic of Indonesia on September 5, 1945. However, just 19 days into office, Taroenamihardja resigned from his position.

In March 1946, he was arrested and detained for a month by former prime minister Syahrir for allegedly opposing his negotiations with the Dutch.

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Thereafter, after being released, he worked as a guerrilla warfare law advisor at the Mount Slamet military district of North Banyumas. In that position, he was assigned to meet the Darul Islam (Islamic Armed Forces of Indonesia) leader, Kartosuwirjo, due to which he was arrested by the forces for 13 months.

During his detention as a hostage, he fell sick from hunger and developed a severe form of malnutrition known as Kwashiorkor as well as ailed from other diseases.

His capture was slackened on account of a battle breaking out between Darul Islam and the Indonesian Military (TNI). The TNI then handed him over to the people.

Another test of life occurred again when Taroenamihardja returned to prison and was accused and charged related to his presence in Darul Islam.

He was held for nine months at Bantjeuj Prison, Bandung. Eventually, the charges could not be proved, and he was acquitted of all charges and accusations.

After that incident, he was appointed as high officer of the Ministry of Justice, currently the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. On April 1, 1959, he was promoted and sworn in to be the fifth Attorney General of the Republic of Indonesia.

Akin to his first time being the Attorney General, his second term was also short-lived. On September 22, 1959, Taroenamihardja was honorably discharged and returned to serve at the Department of Justice.

His life journey came to an end on December 24, 1971, when Taroenamihardja passed away and was buried at the Menteng Pulo Cemetery, Tebet, South Jakarta.

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Giving respect

Some 48 years after Taroenamihardja passed away, specifically in January 2019, a PJI member reported that his tomb was found unkempt. The report finally reached the ears of PJI Chairman, Setia Untung Arimuladi.

Arimuladi thereafter directed some PJI members to coordinate with the Menteng Pulo Cemetery to check the truth of the information and search for Taroenamihardja's heirs.

Based on the coordination, it was found that the tomb of the first Attorney General of Indonesia was uncared for.

The PJI member, who conducted the coordination, also figured out that the tomb was neglected because Taroenamihardja's last documented heir, Purwoto Suhadi Gandasubrata, the eighth Chief Justice of the Indonesian Supreme Court, had passed away. Thus, since his passing, the rental fee of the grave was not paid, making it neglected and unrecognizable, filled with wild plants.

The PJI member then strove to find another heir of Taroenamihardja that was still alive and finally obtained a permit to relocate the grave to a better burial site at the Adhyaksa Cemetery in Bogor District.

The permission to transfer the grave was given by Wahyudiati T. Salim Gandasubrata, the niece of Taroenamihardja. Gandasubrata expressed no objection to the re-burial and was willing to write a statement letter on stamp duty. The tomb relocation was intended to ensure that better care was provided.

After a lengthy process, on Thursday, November 25, 2021, the ceremony of re-burying Taroenamihardja's body to a better location was finally held and broadcast online through the Legal Information Center of the Office of the Attorney General's YouTube Channel.

Taroenamihardja is remembered as a figure, who was bold, firm, prestigious, and persistent in defending and upholding the law in Indonesia. He never hesitated to risk his life in order to maintain his integrity, dedication, and standing in the rule of law, as proven in his handling of cases.

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