Saturday, November 13, 2010

What we are concerned about is the fate of those who are still missing

Protesters Ramping Up Calls for Indonesian Government Apology
Nivell Rayda & Markus Junianto Sihaloho | September 28, 2010

Jakarta. Undeterred by their arrest on Monday night, some 50 family members of activists who were kidnapped in 1997 and 1998 took to the streets again on Tuesday to rally outside the State Palace.

Their protest comes a little more than a month after the families demanded a public presidential apology and for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to shed new light on past rights abuses.

Tuesday’s protest marked a year since the House of Representatives urged the government to investigate the abuses, including the disappearance of student activists during the May 1998 riots and the shooting of student protesters during a 1998 pro-democracy rally near the Semanggi cloverleaf in Jakarta.

No immediate action has been taken by the government since last year’s House recommendation.

Police detained the activists on Monday for questioning.

The majority are mothers whose sons and husbands were kidnapped by soldiers.

The police said the protesters violated the agreed time limit of the demonstration, which was to end at 6 p.m.

DT Utomo Rahardjo, the father of Bima Petrus Nugraha, a pro-democracy activist believed to have been kidnapped by Army soldiers in March 1998, said he had come from his home town of Malang, East Java, just to participate in the rally.

“I have participated in rallies like this hundreds of times. I have never grown tired of pushing the government to at least locate my son, regardless of whether he’s dead or alive,” Utomo told the Jakarta Globe.

“I don’t ask for the perpetrators to be prosecuted or arrested. I also don’t expect whoever is responsible to come forward. I just want to find my son.”

The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras) estimated that 24 student activists had been kidnapped at the time.

Nine of them, according to Kontras, were released after months of torture while one other was found dead in Solo, Central Java.

The remainder, including Bima Petrus, are still missing.

Mugiyanto Sipin was one of the lucky few. He was released after being kidnapped for his fierce criticism of the Suharto regime.

“Ten people came to my house in Klender [East Jakarta] on March 13, 1998. Two of them were in military uniform. I was taken to several places before being taken to Kopassus Headquarters,” Mugiyanto said, referring to the Army’s special forces unit.

“Two of my friends were already there. I was blindfolded at the time but I could swear I heard the voices of [victims] Nezar Patria and Aan Rosdiyanto. Hours later I heard [the voices of kidnap victims] Andi Arief and Bima Petrus,” Mugiyanto said.

“We were interrogated in separate rooms. I was told to lie down on the floor and from time to time I was punched and kicked, even electrocuted.”

Mugiyanto was released on June 6, 1998, three months after he was kidnapped and weeks after Suharto resigned as president.

Most of those who were released have since joined politicians like Andi Arief who is now a presidential staff member and Pius Lustrilanang, who is now a politician from the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra).

“I thought about leading a normal life. But then I met the parents and siblings of my activist friends who are still missing. I felt I had a moral obligation to find out what had become of the rest of my friends,” Mugiyanto said.

One year ago today, a House plenary meeting agreed to accept the recommendations of one of its special committees that, among other things, President Yudhoyono must issue a decree to establish an ad hoc human rights tribunal to try those allegedly involved in the kidnappings.

Mugiyanto, who chairs the Indonesian Association of Families of the Disappeared (Ikohi), said the government had done nothing about those recommendations.

“What we are concerned about is the fate of those who are still missing. If they are alive, bring them to us. If they have died, where are the graves?” Mugiyanto asked.

Some lawmakers said on Tuesday that they were considering using their political rights to question Yudhoyono, who has still given no response to the House’s recommendation.

Ahmad Yani, lawmaker from the United Development Party (PPP), said they had several times pressured the government to implement the House’s recommendations, to no avail.

“We are considering using our political rights to push the government to do something about the recommendations,” Ahmad said.

“As an example, we could use the interpellation rights to question the government over the stagnancy.”


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