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Yudhoyono will never be brave enough to punish rights abusers

Publication Date : 07-09-2012


How can we believe in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's ability to realise his promises on big issues when he intentionally broke the pledges he expressed tearfully — according to some eyewitnesses — to two ordinary Indonesians who asked him to find those responsible for the pain and misery they were suffering due to human rights violations?

In this very month, September, I wish to talk my fellow Indonesians who have lost their loved ones to or who have suffered from gross human rights violations perpetrated by the state and the government. I have no intention of discouraging your noble struggle. Your efforts deserve full support from all Indonesians, because your ordeal can happen to us too. Allow me to share with you some bitter facts.

September is generally perceived as the right month to promote human rights issues in our country, while under the Soeharto regime it was the perfect moment to frighten people over the latent dangers of communism. Very often the issue was exploited to scare Soeharto's critics.

Do you remember human rights activist Munir Said bin Thalib, or Munir, who was poisoned to death en route to Amsterdam from Jakarta? He died aboard a Garuda Indonesia flight eight years ago on Sept. 7, 2004.

Please also check on Google the assault of Tama S. Langkun, an activist of Indonesia Corruption Watch, who was assaulted on July 8, 2010. The suspected perpetrators included some police officers.

Let me be straight. It is totally absurd for you to expect Yudhoyono to uphold the justice that you have been fighting for, in some cases for decades. For the President, human rights are the last priority because the issue creates "unnecessary" problems for the "good" image of his government. The President of course has often made promises that justice should be upheld at all costs and that he would exercise his presidential powers to find the perpetrators of crimes against humanity.

But I dare to bet (gambling is illegal and haram in this country) that Yudhoyono does not — and will never have — the guts to punish those who have acted on behalf of the state to kill, torture or rob citizens of Indonesia of their constitutional rights in the name of national interests. To make it clear, Yudhoyono prefers to assume that nothing is wrong with human rights here, or that the level of violations is much lower than what victims and activists have claimed.

His ministers, top intelligence officials, his police generals, close aides and bootlickers around him perhaps will be outraged with my conclusion. They may scold me. "Who do you think you are to make such a slanderous statement?" they may say. They can easily arrange lengthy press conferences to convince the nation that the Yudhoyono administration is strongly committed to the rights of the country's citizens. But commitment and realisation are two very different things.

The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has issued a very long list of human rights abuses allegedly committed by the state. The commission repeatedly demanded that the government honestly reopen investigations into human rights violations committed in the aftermath of the coup attempt blamed on the now defunct Indonesian Communist Party, or PKI, on Sept. 30, 1965. Thousands or perhaps millions of Indonesians — be they communists, anti-communists, victims of slander and innocent people — were slain before, during and after this national tragedy.

Demands were also made of the government to find the truth behind the Tanjung Priok riots, where hundreds of Muslims were killed or tortured by the military on Sept. 12, 1984. In the May 1998 riots, hundreds of people were burned to death and many women of Chinese ethnicity were harassed and even raped. Crimes against humanity have also occurred in Aceh, Papua and in our former colony of East Timor.

These gross human rights violations will remain dark chapters in our history. To be fair it is not just Yudhoyono who has been reluctant to take the risk of reopening these cases. His predecessor, president Megawati Soekarnoputri, even scolded her fanatic supporters who demanded that she find the truth behind the assaults and killings of her followers by the military and police during the takeover of her own Indonesian Democratic Party headquarters on July 27, 1996. She said she had never asked them to sacrifice their life for hers.

Yudhoyono has repeatedly said that no one can escape the truth. So how to prove my claim that he will never take any meaningful actions to prove his pledge? Highly intellectual people or those who think they know the best about justice perhaps will laugh at my arguments.

There is a famous saying: "If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in large ones."

Just several weeks after he won the presidential election in 2004, Yudhoyono assured Munir's widow, Suciwati, that he would find the killer(s) of her fearless husband Munir. Until now, however, only an ex-Garuda pilot, Pollycarpus Budi Hari Priyanto, has been convicted of the murder, while the mastermind(s) remain at large.

Then, Yudhoyono shook Langkun's hands in the hospital where he was treated after being assaulted by four unknown men (some say they were police officers), and he swore that Langkun's attackers would not escape justice. And the result? No one has been brought to court, let alone convicted.

Is my conclusion wrong?


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