The Digital Dilemma: Halida Hatta’s Stand for Bung Hatta’s Legacy


Earlier this week, social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter) was abuzz with a controversy that brought to light the complex interplay between digital preservation and intellectual property rights. The uproar began with Halida Hatta, representing the heirs of Indonesia’s national hero Bung Hatta, expressing her disappointment through the Unqualified Podcast account @podunqualified. The controversy centered around the actions of Yustinus Prastowo, who, through his account @prastow, had digitized and shared one of Bung Hatta’s books, Ajaran Marx atau Kepintaran Sang Murid Membeo (1975).

Halida Hatta and the heirs viewed Prastowo’s digitization as a form of piracy, sparking a heated debate online. On the morning of June 10, Prastowo responded to the criticism by issuing an apology and promptly deleting the tweet and the digital file of Bung Hatta’s work. He clarified that his intentions were benign, aimed at making the rare and expensive book accessible to the public.

Mohammad Hatta, fondly known as Bung Hatta, holds a revered place in Indonesian history. He served as the country’s vice president from 1945 to 1956 and as prime minister from 1948 to 1950. Beyond his political roles, Bung Hatta is celebrated as the Father of Indonesian Cooperatives for his efforts in promoting cooperative movements. His legacy extends to his prolific writings, which continue to inspire generations.

Halida Hatta’s reflections on her father’s writing habits reveal his unwavering dedication. “There were no time constraints when it came to writing. If he was in the mood, he (Hatta) could stay in his study for days,” she shared, as documented in Bung Hatta Kita, dalam Pandangan Masyarakat (1982). This dedication was evident from a young age, influenced by his uncle, Mak Etek Ayub Rais, who gifted him significant books on economics, politics, and socialism. These early readings profoundly shaped Hatta’s intellectual pursuits and his later prolific writing career.

Hatta’s involvement in the youth organization Jong Sumatranen Bond (JSB) marked the beginning of his active engagement in nationalistic discourse. Serving as the treasurer for JSB branches in Padang and Batavia, he regularly contributed his thoughts to the organization’s newspaper. His writings during this period reflected his deep commitment to Indonesia’s nationalistic ideals, which he continued to express in various publications, including the prominent newspaper Neratja.

In 1921, Hatta pursued further studies in the Netherlands, continuing his writing for Neratja. His love for books remained unwavering, with frequent visits to bookstores in Rotterdam and Hamburg, where he amassed an impressive collection. This passion for literature and learning underpinned his extensive output, which includes dozens of books on the social sciences, philosophy, and history.

Maryono’s analysis in “Bung Hatta, Proklamator, Ilmuwan, Penulis, dan Karya-karyanya: Sebuah Analisis Bio-Bibliometrik,” published in Berkala Ilmu Perpustakaan dan Informasi (Vol. IX, No. 2, 2015), highlights Hatta’s prolific output. Throughout his life, Hatta produced 163 works, comprising 159 books and 4 journal articles. This body of work encompasses a wide range of themes, from philosophy and religion to history and the social sciences, particularly economics and politics.

Among Hatta’s notable works is Alam Pikiran Yunani, his first published book, written during his exile in Boven Digul in 1935. This book, which served as his wedding gift to Siti Rahmiati, aimed to broaden philosophical understanding and sharpen intellectual rigor. In Demokrasi Kita, Hatta critiqued the state of democracy in Indonesia, providing a pointed criticism of President Sukarno’s administration. His influential speech, Mendayung antara Dua Karang, laid the foundation for Indonesia’s non-aligned foreign policy amidst Cold War tensions.

Ajaran Marx atau Kepintaran Sang Murid Membeo and Untuk Negeriku, Sebuah Otobiografi are other significant works that reflect Hatta’s intellectual legacy. The latter, initially published as Mohammad Hatta: Memoir in 1979, offers a comprehensive look at his life and thoughts.

The recent controversy surrounding the digitization of Hatta’s work underscores the ongoing challenges in balancing the preservation of intellectual heritage with respecting the rights of heirs and authors. As the digital age continues to evolve, these debates highlight the need for thoughtful approaches to sharing and protecting the intellectual legacies of historical figures like Bung Hatta.