Sunday, May 14, 2017

A day to remember

Impunity persists 19 years after May riot
The Jakarta Post, 13 May 2017, Marguerite Afra Sapiie and Margareth S. Aritonang

“It feels like déjà vu,” said Mugiyanto Sipin, who was abducted by state officials along with other pro-democracy activists during the 1998 May riots.

“I, along with many others who opposed the authoritarian New Order regime, was face-to-face with Wiranto in May 1998 and now, almost 20 years later, we are facing the same person.”

Nineteen years ago, Mugiyanto, along with other Indonesians, had been calling for the ouster of then president Soeharto. Many lost their lives while several went missing during the days before Soeharto’s downfall, which was preceded by the shooting of four Trisakti University students on May 12 and a riot that claimed hundreds of lives.

A 2003 investigation by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) included Wiranto, who was then commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces, on the list of people considered culpable for the shooting and the riot. Former presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, then commander of the Collaboration of Armed Forces Strategic Command (Pangkostrad), was also on the list. The patron of the Gerindra Party was accused of at the time ordering the torture and kidnapping of activists.
Both Wiranto and Prabowo have denied the allegations.

Almost two decades after the historic event, not a single person has been held responsible for the riot or the disappearances of prodemocracy activists. Prabowo is expected to run for president again in 2019, while Wiranto is now the nation’s chief security minister.
For Mugiyanto, the presence of Wiranto and Prabowo in the center of the country’s political stage has become a major challenge in the push for justice.

The compromise that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has made with the people believed to be responsible for the atrocities in 1998, including for instance by appointing Wiranto to be the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister, was a mistake, he said.
“The first thing that Pak Jokowi must do is dismiss Wiranto from his Cabinet because it is clear that Wiranto doesn’t share the agenda the Jokowi administration has in promoting justice, including in resolving past rights abuses,” Mugiyanto said.

In a separate interview, Maria Catarina Sumarsih, the mother of murdered student Bernardus Realino Norma Irmawan, expressed a similar concern. “If Pak Jokowi really wants to keep the promise he made to the people, he must replace Wiranto.”
After serving in his position for six months, Wiranto announced a plan to establish the Council for National Harmony (DKN) in January, saying that it would have a similar function as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which had been declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.

The plan revived suspicions among activists that Wiranto was trying to resolve all past abuse cases, including those that occurred during the 1998 riots, through reconciliation handled by the DKN.

Despite demands for clarity, Wiranto has refused to provide details about his plans. Even the Office of the Presidential Staff and Komnas HAM have reportedly been kept in the dark about them and were not informed about the DKN’s organizational structure or its mandate.

“We are told that the council would be aimed at also focusing on finding non-judicial solutions to past abuses, in addition to dealing with social conflicts,” Komnas HAM commissioner Roichatul Aswidah said, adding that the commissioners were never involved in the discussions.
Wiranto declined to comment when asked about the government’s attempt to resolve the 1998 human rights cases, saying he would deliver an explanation later.


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