A FINE BALANCE: THE PROFESSIONAL LIFE OF SULTAN HAMENGKU BUWONO IX
This book is a political biography of Sultan Hamengku Buwono IX (1912– 88), one of Indonesia's most respected founding fathers. Although revered and admired at home and abroad, this is his first biography in English. This is largely because the Sultan was an intensely private person who meticulously guarded his public persona, and information about his life is not readily accessible. In 1971, although he was one of Indonesia's bestknown public figures, the Indonesian daily Kompas described him thus:
The Sultan resembles a ‘Sphinx’; he is usually quiet but has charisma. As a long-standing national-level leader, he has the affection of the public, but always maintains his integrity.
Writing the biography of such a figure — a royal, an active member of the Suharto and Sukarno administrations, and ruler of his own principality — yet a person who revealed little of himself on the public record, presents any scholar, Indonesian or foreigner, with major challenges. It is hardly surprising, then, that a full critical examination of the Sultan's life has been long in coming. As his first and final chapters show, Dr Monfries has approached the Sultan's biography in the full knowledge of these challenges.
Dr Monfries brings to this enterprise an unusual, even unique, set of skills and experience. He graduated from The Australian National University in 1968 with an honours degree in Southeast Asian Studies, specializing in Indonesia and Indonesian language. In late 1967, he applied for entry to the Australian diplomatic service (the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) and was accepted in 1968. He had a long and distinguished career with postings in Indonesia, as Counsellor in the Australian Embassy in the Netherlands, and as Australian Commissioner to Brunei. His first trip to Indonesia was in late 1967 when, as a newly graduated student, he witnessed the poverty and desperate condition of post-Sukarno Indonesia and the shock of a population which had experienced mass killings on a scale beyond comprehension.
He was posted to Indonesia as a diplomat between 1969 and 1971 and observed the early years of Suharto's New Order government, a vital period of transition towards economic development, increasing military influence, and enforced political stability.