Rio Apinino – Incumbent presidential candidate President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and running mate Ma’ruf Amin’s have indeed made many sweet promises about protecting and upholding human rights (HAM).
In point number 6.4 of their vision and mission statement, they cite respect, protection and the fulfillment of human rights. The section reads: “Improving effective and productive performance and cooperation with different institutions in the framework of protecting and upholding human rights”.
But what’s written on paper is not so picturesque in reality. It was reported recently that Muchdi Purwoprandjono – or Muchdi PR as he is known – declared that he has joined the Widodo-Amin election campaign team. Muchdi is alleged to have been involved in past human rights violations, specifically the assassination of renowned human rights defender Munir Said Thalib in 2004.
“I see that Jokowi has done a great deal. It’s clear that [his] development programs are being felt by the Indonesian public. From toll roads, ports, airports to other industries”, said Muchdi in explaining why he joined the Widodo camp on Sunday February 10. “This could not be done by Prabowo over the next five years”, he said referring to Widodo’s presidential rival former Special Forces (Kopassus) commander Prabowo Subianto.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) – a human rights group established by Munir – has criticised the Widodo camp for accepting Muchdi as part of the election campaign team.
Kontras coordinator Yati Andriyani says that with Muchdi joining the incumbent president’s camp, it demonstrates that human rights are indeed just a political commodity, nothing more than that.
“It’s very contradictory. It’s no longer clear, on the one had they promise to resolved cases of gross human rights violations, then on the other hand they give political space to alleged perpetrators of HAM who should be held accountable [for their crimes]”, Andriyani told Tirto on Monday February 11.
Andriyani said that it seems as if Widodo’s election campaign team has no “filter” at all and will welcome anybody who they think can provide political benefits. “They will do anything, they will accept anyone, including Muchdi just for the sake electoral [interests]”, said Andriyani.
Grudge against Munir
In 2008 Muchdi was declared a suspect in Munir’s murder, which according to the public prosecutor was because Muchdi held a grudge against Munir over his investigation into the 1997-98 abduction and disappearance of political activists.
At the time, Muchdi was the commander of Kopassus having replacing Prabowo who himself had been discharged from the military for his involvement in the abductions. Munir meanwhile was one of the human rights activists who had been most vocal about the abductions which eventually led to Muchdi also being sacked as Kopassus commander.
On December 31, 2008 Muchdi was declared not guilty of murdering Munir by Judge Suharto in South Jakarta District Court verdict Number 1488/Pid B/2008/PN. But it is still interesting to examine the facts surrounding the trial.
In March 2003 Muchdi was promoted to Deputy Head V of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), which according to the prosecution’s case dossier, “provided many opportunities to put a stop to the activities of the victim the late Munir who had caused harm to the defendant”.
Muchdi then used BIN’s non-organic network in the person of Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto to take Munir’s life. Pollycarpus was a Garuda Indonesia Airlines pilot who was later sentenced to 20 years jail for murdering Munir, although after generous sentence remissions he was released last year.
Pollycarpus was found to have falsified a recommendation letter to PT Garuda Indonesia Airways so that he would be placed with corporate security, which he typed up himself using a computer at BIN’s Deputy V staff room. Pollycarpus then took the letter into Muchdi’s office.
Several days later, Pollycarpus informed senior BIN official Budi Santoso [who for unknown reasons was never presented as a witness in Muchdi’s trial – JB] saying, “Pak [Mr], I’ve been given a job by Pak Muchdi Purwoprandjono to put an end to Munir”.
The letter of recommendation enabled Pollycarpus to take the same fight as Munir and subsequently allowed him to give Munir a drink laced with arsenic. On September 7, 2004 in Rumanian airspace, Munir died two hours before his plane was due to land at its final destination of Amsterdam.
The prosecution stated that Muchdi harboured resentment against Munir. The murder, in other words, was an act of revenge. Upon hearing this during his trial, Muchdi simply looked in the direction of the prosecutor. Once in a while he smiled and placed his right hand on his chest.
Welcomed with open arms
Andriyani’s remark – that the Widodo camp has welcomed Muchdi with open arms – was indirectly confirmed by Widodo-Amin election campaign team director for political communication, Usman Kansong. Kansong said that they don’t care about Muchdi’s background and feel that his past is a closed book and does not need to be made into an issue again.
“The Munir case, right, has been resolved”, he told Tirto. “The [legal] process, right, has already run its course and is no longer a burden [for Muchdi]”. Kansong said that Muchdi’s arrival is “good news” for the Widodo camp. “This is new energy for us. We think that Jokowi’s electability will rise”.
Kansong’s statement that the Munir case is resolved is not in fact true at all. The problem is that last September the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Directorate (Bareskrim Polri), which was then headed up by Commissioner General Arief Sulistyanto (who is now the head of the national police’s Education and Training Institute), said that the national police might reopen the investigation if new evidence or facts are found.
A reexamination of the Munir case files was ordered directly by National Police Chief Tito Karnavian.
Chief of Presidential Staff retired General Moeldoko meanwhile said that he felt that there was no link between Muchdi (who is also the Deputy Chairperson of Tommy Suharto’s Working Party which is backing Prabowo's presidential bid) joining the Widodo camp and the case that he has been dragged into. According to Moeldoko, the president cannot intervene in a case that is under active investigation.
“How could the president possibly protect [intervene] in the legal process. Moreover he hasn’t even protected his own ministers from legal problems”, he said.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Tim Jokowi Sambut Muchdi PR: Ironi Janji Manis Penegakan HAM”.]