B. J. Habibie

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. Sc. Mult. H.
Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie
3rd President of Indonesia
In office
21 May 1998  20 October 1999
Vice President none
Preceded by Suharto
Succeeded by Abdurrahman Wahid
7th Vice President of Indonesia
In office
10 March 1998  21 May 1998
President Suharto
Preceded by Try Sutrisno
Succeeded by Megawati Sukarnoputri
4th State Minister for Research and Technology of Indonesia
In office
29 March 1978  16 March 1998
Preceded by Soemitro Djojohadikoesoemo
Succeeded by Rahardi Ramelan
Personal details
Born (1936-06-25) 25 June 1936
Parepare, South Sulawesi, Dutch East Indies
Political party Golkar
Spouse(s) Hasri Ainun Besari, (m. 1962–2010, her death)
Children Ilham Akbar Habibie (b. 1963)
Thareq Kemal Habibie (b. 1967)
Alma mater Bandung Institute of Technology (Mechanical Engineering 1954)
RWTH (B.E. 1955)
RWTH (Ing. 1962)
Occupation Engineer, Aviation Industrialist, Politician
Religion Islam

Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie  pronunciation  FREng[1] (born 25 June 1936) is an Indonesian engineer who was President of Indonesia from 1998 to 1999. He succeeded Suharto, who resigned in 1998. His presidency is seen as a transition to the post-Suharto era. Upon becoming president, he liberalised Indonesia's press and political party laws, and held an early democratic election in 1999, which resulted in the end of his presidency. His presidency was the third, and the shortest, after independence.

Early life

Habibie was born in Parepare, South Sulawesi Province to Alwi Abdul Jalil Habibie and R. A. Tuti Marini Puspowardojo. His father was an agriculturist from Gorontalo descent and his mother was a Javanese noblewoman from Yogyakarta. His parents met while studying in Bogor. Habibie's father died when he was 14 years old.

Studies and career in Europe

Habibie started to study aviation and aerospace at the University of Delft (Netherlands) but for political reasons (West New Guinea dispute, which involved Netherlands and Indonesia), he had to continue his study in Aachen, Germany.[2]

He was appointed a Fellow[1] of the Royal Academy of Engineering[1] in 1990.

In 1960, Habibie received a degree in engineering in Germany, giving him the title Diplom-Ingenieur. He remained in Germany as a research assistant under Hans Ebner at the Lehrstuhl und Institut für Leichtbau, RWTH Aachen to conduct research for his doctoral degree.[3]

In 1962, Habibie returned to Indonesia for three months on sick leave. During this time, he was reacquainted with Hasri Ainun, the daughter of R. Mohamad Besari. Habibie had known Hasri Ainun in childhood, junior high school and in senior high school at SMA Kristen Dago (Dago Christian Senior High School), Bandung. The two married on 12 May 1962, returning to Germany shortly afterwards.[4] Habibie and his wife settled in Aachen for a short period before moving to Oberforstbach. In May 1963 they had a son, Ilham Akbar Habibie.

When Habibie's minimum wage salary forced him into part-time work, he found employment with the automotive marque Talbot, where he became an advisor. Habibie worked on two projects which received funding from Deutsche Bundesbahn.

Due to his work with Makosh, the head of train constructions offered his position to Habibie upon retirement three years later, but Habibie refused.[5]

In 1965, Habibie delivered his thesis in aerospace engineering and received the grade of "very good" for his dissertation, giving him the title Doktor der Ingenieurwissenschaften. During the same year, he accepted Hans Ebner's offer to continue his research on Thermoelastisitas and work toward his Habilitation, but he declined the offer to join RWTH as a professor per se. His thesis about light construction for supersonic or hypersonic states also attracted offers of employment from companies such as Boeing and Airbus, which Habibie again declined.[6]

Habibie did accept a position with Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm in Hamburg. There, he developed theories on thermodynamics, construction, and aerodynamics known as the Habibie Factor, Habibie Theorem, and Habibie Method, respectively. He worked for Messerschmit on the development of the Airbus A-300B aircraft. In 1974, he was promoted to vice president of the company.[7]

Career in Indonesia

In 1974, Suharto recruited Habibie to return to Indonesia as part of Suharto's drive to industrialize and develop the country. Habibie initially served as a special assistant to Ibnu Sutowo, the CEO of state oil company Pertamina. Two years later, in 1976, Habibie was made Chief Executive Officer of the new state-owned enterprise Industri Pesawat Terbang Nusantara (IPTN).[7] (In 1985, PT. Nurtanio changed its name to Indonesian Aviation Industry and is now known as Indonesian Aerospace (Dirgantara)). In 1978, he was appointed as Minister of Research and Technology. He continued to play an important role in IPTN other "strategic" industries in this post.[7] By the 1980s, IPTN had grown considerably, specializing in the manufacture of helicopters and small passenger planes; by 1991, Habibie oversaw ten state-owned industries including ship- and train-building, steel, arms, communications, and energy.[7] A 1993 estimate determined that the estimates used nearly $2 billion a year in state funding, although the government's opaque accounting practices meant that the size of the industries was not completely known.[8]

Habibie became a pilot, assisted in his training by A.B. Wolff, former chief of staff of the Dutch Air Force. In 1995, he flew an N-250 (dubbed Gatotkoco) commuter plane.

In developing Indonesia's aviation industry, he adopted an approach called "Begin at the End and End at the Beginning".[9] In this method, elements such as basic research became the last things upon which to focus, whilst actual manufacturing of the planes was placed as the first objective. Under Habibie's leadership, IPTN became a manufacturer of aircraft including Puma helicopters and CASA planes. It pioneered a small passenger airplane, the N-250 Gatokaca, in 1995, but the project was a commercial failure.[10]

Member of Golkar

1994 ABC news report of Suharto announcing he would retire in 1998, including an interview with Habibie, who was Minister of Research and Technology, declaring no interest in becoming president.

In Suharto's regime, as was expected of senior government executives, Habibie became a member of the Golkar organisation. From 1993 to 1999, he was a daily coordinator for the chairman of the executive board.

Habibie(center) as Golkar Board of Patron member during the 1997 campaign in Tanah Abang, Jakarta.

Vice presidency

In January 1998, after accepting nomination for a seventh term as President, Suharto announced the selection criteria for the nomination of a vice president. Suharto did not mention Habibie by name, but his suggestion that the next vice president should have a mastery of science and technology made it obvious he had Habibie in mind.[11]

In that year, in the midst of the Asian Financial Crisis, this suggestion was received badly, causing the rupiah to fall. Despite this and protests (the former minister Emil Salim tried to nominate himself as vice president), Habibie was elected as Vice President in March 1998.


Main article: Post-Suharto Era

East Timor

Habibie opposed East Timorese Independence but did consider giving East Timor special autonomy.[12]

In late 1998, John Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia, sent a letter to Habibie suggesting that Indonesia defuse the East Timorese issue by providing autonomy to be followed by the promise of a referendum in the long run, following the method used by France to settle New Caledonian demands for independence. Wishing to avoid the impression that Indonesia ruled East Timor as a colony, Habibie surprised some by announcing that a referendum, offering a choice between special autonomy and independence, would be held immediately in East Timor. ABRI was not consulted on this decision.[13]

On 30 August 1999, the referendum was held and the East Timorese people overwhelmingly chose Independence in mostly free and fair elections. However, the retreat of Indonesian troops from East Timor created the 1999 East Timorese crisis where many were killed. Although Habibie favored the quick deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to halt violence, the military opposed this plan. On September 10, General Wiranto allegedly threatened to stage a military coup if Habibie allowed in peacekeeping forces, causing Habibie to back down.[14] Habibie also publicly ordered security personnel to stop violence in the territory, but his orders went largely unheeded.

Suharto's corruption charge

The MPR Special Session in November 1998 declared that an investigation should be made into corruption in Indonesia, focusing particularly on Suharto.

Habibie formed a special commission on corruption which, to the Reformasi, represented a gesture of good faith. The noted lawyer Adnan Buyung Nasution was invited to chair the investigation. The broad scope of the terms of reference Nasution suggested was unacceptable to Habibie, who then appointed Attorney General and loyalist, Andi Muhammad Ghalib.

On 9 December 1998, Suharto was questioned for three hours by Ghalib. The Habibie government declared that Suharto had gained his wealth through corruption.

A tape of a telephone conversation between Habibie and Ghalib was made public. It raised concerns about the veracity of the investigation by suggesting that the interrogation of Suharto was intended only for public appearances.[15]

Under Habibie, the Indonesian government also began investigating and prosecuting Suharto's youngest son, Tommy Suharto. Tommy was charged by Ghalib in December 1998 in conjunction with the Goro scandal, where the government, under pressure from Tommy, allegedly gave him a desirable parcel and below-market loan for the construction of a Goro supermarket. However, Tommy was found innocent in the case after several key witnesses, including one of Habibie's aides - Rahardi Ramelan - changed their testimony and declared that the deal did not cause losses to the state.[16]

The economy

Habibie's government stabilized the economy in the face of the Asian financial crisis and the chaos of the last few months of Suharto's presidency.[17]

Social issues

Habibie's government began to make conciliatory gestures towards Chinese Indonesians who, because of their elite status, were targeted in the riots of 1998. In September 1998, Habibie issued a 'Presidential Instruction' forbidding use of the terms pribumi and non-pribumi to differentiate indigenous and non-indigenous Indonesians.[18]

In May 1999, Habibie issued a further instruction directing that a display of an ID card would suffice as proof of Indonesian citizenship, whereas previously, displaying a 'Letter of Evidence of Republic of Indonesia Citizenship' (SBKRI) was required. Although the Chinese Indonesian community was not mentioned specifically, it is clear these policies were primarily for the Chinese Indonesians who, in the Suharto years, were referred to as non-pribumi and had to display the SBKRI to prove their Indonesian citizenship.


When Habibie was State Minister for Research and Technology, he created the OFP (Overseas Fellowship Program), STMDP (Science Technology and Manpower Development Program) and STAID (Science and Technology for Industrial Development). These three programs provided scholarships to thousands of high school graduates to earn their bachelor degrees in the STEM fields and for other technical professionals to continue their study for master’s and doctorate program in the United States, Europe, Japan, and other countries.

Political reform

Under Habibie, Indonesia made significant changes to its political system that expanded competition and freedom of speech. Shortly after taking office, in June 1998, Habibie's government lifted the Suharto-era restriction on political parties and ended censorship by dissolving the Information Ministry. He also quickly committed to holding democratic elections, albeit on an initially vague timetable. In December, he proposed political reform laws that were passed by the legislature and MPR session. These laws set elections for December 1999, reduced the number of seats in parliament held by the military, and barred political activity by civil servants.[19]

However, political opponents criticized Habibie for agreeing to give the military some seats in parliament, and taking little action on other military and judicial reforms.[20] The military retained its territorial command system and practice of seconding officers to civil-service posts, and there were few prosecutions for Suharto-era corruption under Habibie.

End of presidency

Although he had been viewed as leading a transitional government, Habibie seemed determined to continue as president. He was initially unclear about whether he would seek a full term as president when he announced parliamentary elections in June 1998.[19] Habibie faced opposition from many within the government party, Golkar; in July 1998, he struggled to win control of the party by appointing Akbar Tandjung as chair of the party, but was ultimately able to defeat a rival camp including former Vice President Try Sutrisno, Defence Minister Edi Sudrajat, Siswono Yudhohusodo, and Sarwono Kusmumaatmadja.[21]

However, at the same time, Habibie began to lose support from Akbar Tandjung and a faction in Golkar, composed of both reformers and hardliners, that wanted to oust him. In March 1999, Golkar put forth five presidential nominees: Habibie, Tandjung, Wiranto, Hamengkubuwono X, and Ginandjar Kartasasmita.[22] In May 1999, Golkar announced that Habibie would be their presidential candidate after extensive lobbying, but a large faction in the party remained loyal to Tandjung and opposed to Habibie.[23]

At the 1999 MPR General Session in October, Habibie delivered an accountability speech which was a report of what he had achieved during his presidency. Once this was completed, MPR members began voting to decide if they would accept or reject his speech. Habibie attempted to win the support of the military by offering the vice-presidency to General Wiranto, but his offer was declined.[24] Tandjung's Golkar faction broke with the ranks and voted against him, and his accountability speech was rejected by 355 votes to 322. Seeing that it would be inappropriate to press his candidacy for the presidency after having his accountability speech rejected, Habibie withdrew his nomination.


Since relinquishing the presidency, he has spent more time in Germany than in Indonesia, though he was active during Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's presidency both as a presidential adviser and through the Habibie Centre to ensure democratisation in Indonesia.

In September 2006, he released a book called Detik-Detik Yang Menentukan: Jalan Panjang Indonesia Menuju Demokrasi (Decisive Moments: Indonesia's Long Road Towards Democracy). The book recalled the events of May 1998 which led to his rise to the Presidency. In the book, he controversially accuses Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto, Suharto's son-in-law (at that time) and the Kostrad Commander, of planning a coup d'état against him in May 1998.


Habibie was married to Hasri Ainun Besari, a medical doctor, from 12 May 1962 until her death on 22 May 2010. The couple had two sons, Ilham Akbar Habibie and Thareq Kemal Habibie. B. J. Habibie's brother, Junus Effendi Habibie, was Indonesian ambassador to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.[25][26] After his wife's death, Habibie published a book titled Habibie & Ainun which recounts his relationship with Hasri Ainun from their courtship until her death. The book has been adapted into a film of the same name which was released on December 20, 2012.[27]

In popular culture


  1. 1 2 3 "List of Fellows".
  2. http://delta.tudelft.nl/artikel/habibie-nauwe-band-met-delft/7014
  3. Habibie 2010, p. 4
  4. Habibie 2010, p. 1
  5. Habibie 2010, p. 28
  6. Habibie 2010, p. 41
  7. 1 2 3 4 O'Rourke 2002, p. 140
  8. The Economist. 17 April 1993.
  9. "Our History". Indonesian Aerospace. Archived from the original on 18 October 2006. Retrieved 30 October 2006.
  10. O'Rourke 2002, p. 142
  11. "Delapan Calon Wapres Itu: Di Antara Pujian dan Kritik". Tempo. 7 February 1998. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2006.
  12. Miller, M. (2004). 'From reform to repression: the post-New Order's shifting security policies in Aceh', Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs, 38(4), 129–162.
  13. https://hass.unsw.adfa.edu.au/timor_companion/fracturing_the_bipartisan_consensus/howards_letter.php Archived 28 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. O'Rourke 2002, p. 272
  15. Elson, Robert (2001). Suharto: A Political Biography. UK: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. p. 295. ISBN 0-521-77326-1.
  16. O'Rourke 2002, p. 232
  17. Suprapto, Eddy; et al. (18 October 1999). "Bung Rudy, In Rapormu! Mengintip Pertanggungjawaban BJ Habibie". Kontanonline.com as found on hamline.edu. Archived from the original on 15 September 2006. Retrieved 28 October 2006.
  18. Purdey, Jemma (2006). Anti-Chinese Violence in Indonesia, 1996–1999. Singapore: Singapore University Press. p. 179. ISBN 9971-69-332-1.
  19. 1 2 O'Rourke 2002, p. 145
  20. O'Rourke 2002
  21. O'Rourke 2002, p. 156
  22. O'Rourke 2002, p. 228
  23. O'Rourke 2002, p. 236
  24. O'Rourke 2002, p. 312
  25. "Former First Lady Hasri Ainun Habibie Dies At 72". Jakarta Globe. 23 May 2010. Archived from the original on 24 May 2010. Retrieved 23 May 2010.
  26. "Brother of Former President BJ Habibie, Fanny Habibie, Dies at 74". Antara. Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
  27. Former President Habibie's Love Story to Hit the Big Screen | The Jakarta Globe
  28. https://www.brilio.net/film/kenalan-yuk-sama-bima-pemeran-habibie-kecil-di-film-rudy-habibie-160630y.html

Further reading

Habibie, Bacharuddin Jusuf (December 2010). Habibie & Ainun (Cet. 2. ed.). Jakarta: THC Mandiri. ISBN 978-979-1255-13-4.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie.
Political offices
Preceded by
President of Indonesia
Succeeded by
Abdurrahman Wahid
Preceded by
Try Sutrisno
Vice President of Indonesia
Title next held by
Megawati Sukarnoputri
Preceded by
Soemitro Djojohadikoesoemo
State Minister for Research and Technology of Indonesia
Succeeded by
Rahardi Ramelan
Government offices
New title Head of Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology
Succeeded by
Rahardi Ramelan
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