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Hanafi Rustandi

It is with shock and sadness that the ITF reports the death of Hanafi Rustandi, a true giant of trade unionism, while representing seafarers at a pivotal meeting in Japan.


ITF president and MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin and Joe Fleetwood, general secretary of MUNZ, sent the news from the scene: “We sadly report that friend and comrade of the MUA, MUNZ and the ITF, and long term leader of the Indonesian seafarers’ union the KPI, and ITF Asia Pacific chair Hanafi Rustandi has passed away suddenly in Tokyo where the ITF dockers’ and seafarers’ negotiating team is meeting with international shipowners to finalise the IBF (International Bargaining Forum) international agreement.

“Brother Hanafi was found by MUNZ general secretary Joe Fleetwood, who was in the next room at the hotel, and he and comrade Crumlin were in attendance for the attempt to revive him over the next hour.

“Hanafi was a regular attendee of the MUA national council, quadrennial conference of members and branch conferences, particularly in Western Australia, along with attendance at MUNZ executives and conferences.

“He was a fierce supporter of Australian and New Zealand seafarers’ right to work and in particular intervened on a number of occasions to ensure offshore vessels working out of Indonesia in Australian waters were manned by Australian crews and firmly rejected any attempt by offshore operators to replace Australian crews with his or any other nations’ seafarers. He worked closely with comrade Fleetwood and MUNZ in fighting the wage slavery in the international fishing industry, particularly in New Zealand.

“A long-time union official, his shout of “Fight from the Front” was well known around the world and was well recognisable everywhere,  in his MUA t-shirt making that call during the Your Rights at Work  campaign against the Howard Government.

“The national secretary and president of the ITF, together with MUNZ general secretary Joe Fleetwood and ITF general secretary Steve Cotton have extended their, the unions’ and ITF officers’, staff and affiliates’ deepest sympathies to his wife and family and to the officers, staff and members of the KPI, as well as his many brothers and sisters worldwide, particularly in the ITF.

“Vale Brother Hanafi, small in stature and giant at heart. Seafarer, trade unionist, labour leader and internationalist. Much loved. Man of humour, deep faith and family. Now at rest after Fighting from the Front to his last.”

See an album of photos of Hanafi Rustandi fighting for workers’ rights below. 

ITF general secretary Steve Cotton described the Hanafi he knew: “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.

“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. The world has today lost a tireless and irreplaceable campaigner. We mourn his loss and remember his example.”


Hanafi Rustandi was president of the KPI (Kesatuan Pelaut Indonesia), chair of the ITF Asia Pacific region, a member of the ITF executive board, and a member of the Indonesian Maritime Council. Born in February 1945, married, with four children, Hanafi became a KPI branch chair in 1980, then an ITF labour education officer two years later. In 1987 he was elected general secretary of the KPI, the Indonesian seafarers’ union, in which he served until his sudden death. 

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