Aryo Djojohadikusumo: Living up to the family’s legacy

Hasyim Widhiarto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Fri, 04/08/2011

As a history lover, Aryo Djojohadikusumo knows there is nothing certain in politics. But he also believes there is no other way to change a country without it.

At the age of 27, Aryo, the eldest child of businessman and Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) co-founder Hashim Djojohadikusumo, is among the country’s few young politicians with a strategic position in a political party.

He is currently a Gerindra deputy secretary-general and also the chairman of the party’s youth wing, Tunas Indonesia Raya (Tidar), which currently has more than 3,000 members across the country.

Although from the influential Djojohadikusumo family, Aryo said his first encounter with politics actually happened by accident.

“When my father and uncle [Maj. Gen. (ret.) Prabowo Subianto, Gerindra patron chief] established Gerindra in 2008, they had difficulties recruiting people [as party executives] and had no other choice except to give some positions in the party to family members or people they could trust,” Aryo told The Jakarta Post in an interview at his office in Central Jakarta.

In August 2008, Aryo, who studied in the UK for 12 years, returned to Indonesia following a request from his father to support the party’s newly established youth wing.

Aryo said he had been more than ready to lend his hand at that time but had not expected an important position in the organization as a newcomer to Indonesian politics.

He, however, had to take over the Tidar chairmanship since its original chairman needed to focus on his campaign for the 2009 legislative elections in South Sulawesi. Earlier this year, Aryo was elected Tidar chairman for the 2011–2016 period during the organization’s first national congress in Jakarta.

“So, the party was actually never established as a family project. If it ended up that way it was because many people declined to join the party during its early days,” said Aryo, whose interest in history landed him at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies to learn South Asian studies.

Despite his relatively short, first-hand experience in politics, Aryo has had leadership talent in his blood for a long time.

Aryo’s great-grandfather Margono Djojohadikusumo and grandfather Soemitro Djojohadikusumo were well-known as among the country’s founding fathers. Margono was the first chairman of the Supreme Advisory Council and founder of state-owned Bank Negara Indonesia, currently the country’s fourth largest lender. Soemitro was a prominent economist who helped President Soeharto build the Indonesian economy during the New Order Era.

From his marriage to Dora Sigar, who was born in Minahasa, North Sulawesi, Soemitro had four children: Biantiningsih Djiwandono (the wife of former Bank Indonesia governor Sudrajat Djiwandono), Maryani Lemaistre, Prabowo and Hashim.

Aryo, however, is not the only family member who has currently joined politics.

Aryo’s sister, actress Saraswati Djojohadikusumo, or Sara, and cousin Budisatrio Djiwandono now serve as Tidar officials, while another cousin, Thomas Djiwandono, currently holds the position as Gerindra treasurer.

As the eldest son of Hashim, ranked by Forbes magazine as the country’s 30th richest businessman with a US$680 million fortune, many have considered Aryo the family’s future leader both in business and politics, especially as Prabowo’s only son Didit Hediprasetyo, also Soeharto’s grandson, moved to Paris to pursue a career as a fashion designer.

Aryo, however, declined to say if he was groomed to continue the family’s legacy.

“If I could choose, I would prefer to become a businessman. But [being a politician] is the only possible way to influence debate [during policy-making process],” he said, adding severe wealth disparity and the rise of religious-based conflicts in society were among his biggest concerns as a politician.

Aside from Aryo, many other children of the country’s influential leaders have jumped into politics, including National Mandate Party (PAN) legislator Ahmad Mumtaz Rais, 27, a son of the 1998 Reform Movement icon Amien Rais; Democratic Party secretary-general Eddy “Ibas” Baskoro Yudhoyono, 30, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s youngest son; chairwoman of splinter group National Awakening Party Yenny Wahid, 36, daughter of late former president Abdurrahman Wahid or Gus Dur; and Golkar Party youth wing Indonesian Youth Reform Force chairman Dave Akbarsyah Laksono, 31, the son of Golkar deputy chairman and the Coordinating People’s Welfare Minister Agung Laksono.

Aryo, however, did not deny his family’s name helped him and other family members make their way into politics.

“Family names are like franchises,” Aryo said. “There is comfort in supporting those with familiar names,” Aryo said, citing the role of the Kennedy and Bush families in US politics and the Ghandis in India.

During his leisure time, Aryo loves to play polo or horse ride, which his father introduced to him when he was a child.

His experience in the UK from 1996 to 2008 also ignited Aryo’s love of football. He said London-based Arsenal Football Club was his favorite team.

“Believe me or not, I can tell you about every single Arsenal player who has joined the club since 1996,” he said, laughing.