Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – Harbrinderjit Singh Dillon, an agricultural expert, political economist and human rights activist who held various government positions over the years, died in Denpasar, Bali, on Monday at the age of 74.
"The deceased was a figure who cared about the promotion and protection of human rights," Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said on Monday. "He never stopped thinking and always invited everyone to continue to think about the nation's interests in a spirit of humanity that transcended the boundaries of ethnicity, religion, race and origin."
Born in Medan, North Sumatra, in 1945, to Indian Sikh parents, Dillon obtained a bachelor's degree in agricultural sociology-economics from the University of North Sumatra (USU), before continuing his postgraduate studies at Cornell University in the United States.
Between 1983 and 1996, Dillon held various positions at the Agriculture Ministry, including coordinator of the Task Force on Agricultural Policy of Indonesia at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum from 1990 to 1996. He was also a senior adviser to the director general of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome in 1994.
Dillon was also involved in many human rights and anticorruption activities and was a commissioner of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) as well as a Joint Anticorruption Team member.
"Corruption is one of the main reasons that poverty levels remain high because corrupt officials not only steal money from the government, they steal from the people," he told The Jakarta Post in an interview in 2015.
His service to the country was recognized with the awarding of the Bintang Jasa Pratama medal of merit in 2007 from then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the higher Bintang Mahaputra Utama medal in 2015 from President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.