Indonesian Catholic politician Cosmas Batubara dies at 79

Veteran statesman was a former minister in Suharto era and benefactor to various Catholic organizations
Indonesian Catholic politician Cosmas Batubara dies at 79

Cosmas Batubara, a prominent Catholic politician and former minister during the Suharto era, died of lymphatic cancer on Aug. 8 in a Jakarta hospital. (Photo by Konradus Epa/

Veteran Indonesian Christian politician, Cosmas Batubara, a former minister in the Suharto era, who inspired many Catholic leaders and politicians has died at age 79.

Batubara died after a long battle with lymphatic cancer in Jakarta on Aug. 8.

Born in Simalungun in North Sumatra in September 1939, Batubara became active in politics during his university years.

He was a former president of the Indonesian Catholic Students Association (PMKRI) and co-founder and chairman of the Indonesian Student Action Forum, an anti-communist group formed in 1965 following a communist purge that killed nearly a million people.

The father of four children also served as a legislator before becoming public housing minister and manpower minister during Suharto’s rule. 

He was later appointed president of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 1991. 

After retiring from politics Batubara became the director of Podomoro University in Jakarta and lectured at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta and at St. Thomas Catholic University in Medan.

“He was a big figure who inspired many Catholics,” Yohanes Handoyo Budisedjati, director of Vox Point Indonesia, a Catholic organization, told

Batubara displayed sincere dedication not only to the Catholic Church but also to the nation, he said.

Juventus Prima Yoris Kago, chairman of the Catholic Students Association, said Batubara contributed much to the association’s growth.

“He was so passionate about it, he continued to educate, oversee and give unceasing support to the organization,” Kago said.

“The Church and the country has lost a leader who gave much without asking for anything in return,” he said.

Jesuit Father Fransiscus Xaverius  Mudji Sutrisno, a lecturer at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta, said the Church had lost a leader who was a staunch advocate of common welfare. 

He said Batubara was a co-founder of the Golkar Party, the ruling party during Suharto’s rule.

When he became a minister, the priest said, he cared for the lower classes regardless of their background.

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“He was also concerned about lay Catholics, and helped many Catholic organizations financially,” he said.

Catholic politicians in the present and in the future need to follow his example, he added.

Batubara will be buried in Kalibata Heroes Cemetery in Jakarta, after a state funeral on Aug. 10.

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