Rights violation cannot be separated from military control

Kompas – December 23, 2003
Hendari speaking at press conference (Metro TV)
Hendari speaking at press conference (Metro TV)

Jakarta – Human rights violations perpetrated in 2003 cannot be separated from military control, particularly the army. The government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri has not worked as hard as its predecessors, like [former presidents] B.J. Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid to control the TNI [Indonesian armed forces].

This was the essence of the 2003 human rights report by the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) which was presented by its chairperson, Hendardi, on Monday December 22.

PBHI made the assessment that the Megawati regime indeed appears to be controlled by the power of the TNI. For example, in bring into force the status of a military emergency in Aceh, reducing the function of the civil authorities in the Maluku islands, raising the level of conflict in West Papua and the conflict in Poso in Central Sulawasi, the promulgation of the anti-terrorism law and it revisions to increase the role of the military, the draft law on the TNI which provides an opportunity for the mobilisation of troops [without prior approval of the president], the draft law on intelligence which threatens the rights of suspects along with an increase in political discourse which is dominated by elements of the military.

According to Hendardi, the ad hoc trials for East Timor also failed to convict those who were responsible for crimes against humanity1. A [successful] result by the Human Rights Investigation Commission on the Trisakti-Semanggi2 was also discouraged by the People’s Representative Assembly because it was “considered” not to be a gross human rights violation.

PBHI explained that the government of Megawati and Vice-President Hamzah Haz had truly failed to fulfill the obligation to respect, protect and uphold human rights in Indonesia. Throughout 2003, there was a series of incidents which violated and negated human rights.

Meanwhile the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) end of year report noted that the products and practices of law in Indonesia are increasingly serving the forces of neoliberalism.

“This is marked by the expansion of a number of cases of unilateral and arbitrary dismissals along with an increase in land evictions of the urban poor throughout 2003”, said LBH Jakarta vice-chairperson Mulyadi Goce.

Mulyadi said that the state is increasingly powerless in confronting neoliberal forces. Moreover, though its political elite, the state has begun to serve the forces of multinational capital. (VIN/wis)


1. Pro-Jakarta militias organised and backed by the Indonesian armed forces launched a massive campaign of terror and intimidation before the vote on August 30, 1999, and a revenge campaign after East Timorese voted overwhelmingly to split from Indonesia. At least 1000 East Timorese are estimated to have died, 90 per cent of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed and some 250,000 people were forced to abandon their homes and become refugees in West Timor.

2. Trisakti/Semanggi – In May 1998, security personnel shot into a crowd of student protesters from the Trisakti University near their campus in West Jakarta, killing four students and injuring several. This proved to be the spark which set-off three days of mass demonstrations and rioting in Jakarta which eventually lead to the overthrow of former President Suharto. The Semanggi I and II cases involved the fatal shooting of dozens of student demonstrators in Jakarta in November 1998 and September 1999 respectively.

[Translated by James Balowski.]