Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – This story begins when Sukarno was exiled by the colonial government to Bengkulu. Here Sukarno became acquainted with the daughter of a Muhammadiyah leader who was also his student, Fatmawati. Initially, the relationship was limited to teacher and student. However, slowly Sukarno admitted that his relationship with Fatmawati was starting to change.
Long story short, a feeling of liking arose from Sukarno. The reason is not Fatmawati’s beauty, but also the desire of the 1st Indonesian president to have biological children. This is because, for nearly 20 years of being married to Inggit, he has not been blessed with any biological children.
“My wife is approaching 53 years old. I am still young, full of vitality, and entering the best age at the peak of life. I want children. My wife cannot give them to me. I want the joy of life. Inggit no longer thinks about such matters,” said Sukarno, who was then 37 years old, to Cindy Adams in Bung Karno: Mouthpiece of the Indonesian People (1965: 171).
Photo: Indonesia’s first president Soekarno meeting French President General de Gaulle at the Elysée Palace, in Paris, France, on June 21, 1963. (File Photo – Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images/Keystone-France)
Indonesia’s first president Soekarno meets French President General de Gaulle at the Elysée Palace, in Paris, France, on June 21, 1963. (File Photo – Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Long story short, Sukarno then asked Inggit for permission to marry Fatmawati. Inggit, who doesn’t want to be polygamous, clearly refuses and points at a choice: you can marry Fatmawati, but we will divorce. Sukarno, who was overly in love, was finally willing to part with his wife of 20 years and married 20-year-old Fatmawati on August 23, 1943.
After that, Fatmawati was always with Sukarno during the Japanese occupation. When Indonesia became independent, Sukarno became president, Fatmawati became the first first lady. The atmosphere of the young family was increasingly felt when Sukarno’s wish was realized, namely the first son named Guntur who was born in 1944.
Even so, the hot situation after Indonesia’s independence made the small family drift. Sukarno, who became a fugitive from the Dutch army, prevented him from accompanying his family at home. Fatmawati had to endure this situation alone, taking on the role of head of the family and freedom fighter.
Fatmawati always accompanied Sukarno every step of the way. Wherever Sukarno went he always followed. When standing in front of the crowd, Fatmawati stood straight beside her husband. Likewise, when Sukarno was being chased by soldiers, the First Lady was definitely by his side.
In fact, when there was a big war in Yogyakarta, Fatmawati took part in going down the mountain to expel the Dutch troops. Not by taking up arms, but through making logistics.
As told in a memoir entitled Fatmawari, Little Notes with Bung Karno (2016), Fatmawati, who was pregnant, was willing to cook for hours to prepare food for soldiers. He also often walks to the market alone without an escort. Then, when the situation was normal, Fatmawati always accompanied Sukarno on working visits at home or abroad.
However, the story all ended in 1953. At that time, Fatmawati was jealous when she saw Sukarno with a woman named Hartini. She, who was heavily pregnant, held back her jealousy because she was about to give birth. He thought, maybe Sukarno’s mind could change after seeing the birth of the baby.
However, the thing that Fatmawati was most afraid of finally happened. Two days after giving birth to a baby boy named Guruh, on January 15, 1953, Sukarno instead asked Fatmawati’s blessing to marry Hartini. Fatmawati’s tears broke. He, who did not want to be polygamous, preferred to leave the palace, leaving Sukarno forever.
“Then Bung Karno stood up and left the room where I was lying. Can my brethren and sisters imagine with subtle feelings how strong a wife’s feelings are to listen to a husband’s request like the one above if she is not assisted by Allah, the All-Merciful, to remain steadfast in hearing requests like that?,” said Fatmawati in a Small Note with Bung Karno (2016).
Since then, Fatmawati has lived alone in a house in South Jakarta. Meanwhile, Sukarno was living a new life with Hartini. Even so, Fatmawati’s status as first lady doesn’t mean it just disappears. Because in reality, they are not divorced, but only separated for the sake of their children. On this basis, Fatmawati still participated in state activities when the event was not attended by Sukarno.
From the Sukarno-Fatmawati marriage, five children were born, namely Guntur, Megawati, Rachmawati, Sukmawati and Guruh.