Former Minister of Foreign Affaires, Republic of Indonesia
He was Indonesia's Minister for Foreign Affairs from March 1988, serving three terms under the former Suharto administration and once under the Habibie administration in May 1998,. He advocated regional cooperation and played a crucial role in drafting the ASEAN Charter and the Constitution of the 10-member grouping the Eminent Persons Group. He also brokered peace negotiations in several hot spots in Southeast Asia.
His most famous success was his role in helping to broker peace in Cambodia, in 1991, which ended the war with the Khmer Rouge. "Alatas brokered the historic 1991 peace settlement at the Paris International Conference to end the war with the Khmer Rouge, though he had to share some of the glory with France," The Guardian wrote, calling the settlement his "greatest triumph."
His obituary by Reuters said Alatas "was a widely respected figure in the region tipped at one stage to be a possible United Nations secretary-general" but that his later career was "haunted by the Suharto era and the turmoil in East Timor," the former Portuguese colony that voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999. Alatas recounted his role in the diplomatic controversy over Indonesia's annexation of East Timor in 1975 and the events leading to independence in The pebble in the shoe: The diplomatic struggle for East Timor. His obituary in The Guardian argued that a 1991 massacre of anti-Indonesian demonstrators at Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor's capital, probably prevented Alatas from taking charge of the UN. "International outrage over the deaths may have cost Alatas the top UN job, for which he was in the running in the late 1990s," The Guardian wrote. "Suharto reportedly vetoed his candidacy as he believed the role would have highlighted such abuses." Alatas later termed the Santa Cruz massacre a "turning point" for Indonesia in East Timor.
On 30 March 1995 he was appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia, for service to Australian-Indonesian relations.
In 2003, Alatas was appointed as the United Nations special envoy to Burma. He arrived in Burma on 18 August 2005 for a three-day visit and sought the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Alatas served as chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council (Dewan Pertimbangan Presiden) in the Yudhoyono Administration.
On 11 December 2008, Alatas died at 7.30am, at the age of 76 of a heart attack at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, with his wife and his three daughters at his bedside.