Seafarers around the world lost a dedicated ally when Hanafi Rustandi unexpectedly passed away July 3 in Tokyo.
Rustandi, 72, was the longtime president of the Indonesian mariner union Kesatuan Pelaut Indonesia, commonly called KPI. He also was very active with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), chairing the organization’s Asia Pacific Region and serving on its executive board. He was in Tokyo as part of an ITF delegation representing the world’s seafarers and dockers at a meeting of the International Bargaining Forum.
Rustandi had more than one SIU connection. He knew SIU President Michael Sacco and worked with SIU Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel, and his late brother sailed with the SIU.
ITF President Paddy Crumlin stated, “Farewell, brother Hanafi, small in stature and giant at heart. Seafarer, trade unionist, labor leader and internationalist. Much loved. Man of humor, deep faith and family. Now at rest after ‘fighting from the front’ (his mantra) to his last.”
ITF General Secretary Steve Cotton said, “It feels unbelievable that such a vibrant and ever-fighting personality is no longer with us. We grieve for him, and for his family, friends and union members.”
Heindel, who is chair of the ITF Seafarers’ Section, wrote in sympathy to Cotton on behalf of himself as well as President Sacco. “We admired and appreciated Hanafi’s work on behalf of not only his own members, but also other mariners and dockers around the world,” he said. “Hanafi embodied everything good about trade unionism, and I feel privileged to have worked with him. He was a dedicated leader and a trusted friend…. Hanafi’s spirit and example will live on through all of us as we continue in his footsteps. He will be missed, and remembered with great fondness.”
Cotton added, “Hanafi was a battler for what he believed in. He never deviated from that path, even during the many regime changes in Indonesia, and often at personal risk. His visit to Iran to find out the situation for bus driver unionists there is just one example of his courage and sense of duty.
“Hanafi has died as he lived, a strong and outspoken advocate for trade unionists, and a defender to the last of seafarers’ rights,” he concluded. “The world has today lost a tireless and irreplaceable campaigner. We mourn his loss and remember his example.”
Rustandi was married and had four children. He became a KPI official in 1980 and an ITF labor education officer two years later. In 1987, he was elected to the top post at the KPI.