Thu, 13 Oct 1994

First ever first lady to get state honor

JAKARTA (JP): The government will confer, posthumously, the Bintang Mahaputra, the highest medal for meritorious services, to Fatmawati Sukarno, Indonesia's first ever first lady.

The award will be given to one of her children in connection with National Heroes' Day on Nov. 10, Minister of Social Services Inten Suweno told reporters yesterday after reporting to President Soeharto about the plan at Bina Graha.

"She is the only recipient of the award this year," Inten stressed.

Fatmawati sewed the red-and-white flag that was hoisted on Aug. 17, 1945, the day Sukarno proclaimed Indonesia's independence, according to the national encyclopedia.

Her name graces the Fatmawati General Hospital in South Jakarta and the road on which it is located.

Fatmawati was married to Sukarno in 1943 at the age of 19 and initially occupied the presidential palace as Indonesia's first ever first lady. She later decided to leave the palace when Sukarno took Hartini as his new wife. She lived in Jakarta until her death in 1980, 10 years after Sukarno's demise.

Sukarno and Fatmawati met in 1938, in Bengkulu, southern Sumatra. Sukarno, a young, outspoken politician, had been sent into exile there by the Dutch colonial administration. Sukarno was married to Inggit Ganarsih at the time. They had been married 18 years with no children. Fatmawati agreed to marry Sukarno if he divorced Inggit.

Fatmawati had five children, including Megawati Soekarnoputri, now the chairperson of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), and Guruh Soekarnoputra, also a PDI legislator and a successful choreographer. The other three are Guntur, Rachmawati and Sukmawati.

One of her children will accept the star from the government, said Inten. "We will talk with the members of the family," she said. (emb)