Jakarta – The Civil Society Coalition representing the families of the victims of the May 1998 tragedy is calling on the president elect not to include cronies and alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violation in 1998 in the next cabinet.
The Coalition is making this demand so that investigations into cases of past gross human rights violations not be held hostage by the interests of the political elite.
“Do not place perpetrators of human rights violations in the cabinet. For the sake of facilitating law enforcement”, said Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Deputy Coordinator Feri Kusuma at the Pondok Rangon public cemetery (TPU) in East Jakarta on Monday May 13.
Kontras was present to accompany the families of victims if the May 1998 student shootings and riots in Jakarta who were attending an event to scatter flowers on the graves of their relatives.
Also present at the event were representatives from the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), the Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) and other rights organisations. The flower scattering ceremony was held in the context of commemorating 21 years since the May 1998 tragedy.
Kusuma added that the May 1998 incident must be used as a joint reflection for the political elite and the Indonesian people to put an end to violence in Indonesia.
“Get rid of the culture of violence, the government must avoid discriminative behaviour”, he continued.
Those present also demanded that the government build memorials at different points or places where human rights violations have taken place in Indonesia, as was done by the Jakarta provincial government at the Pondok Rangon TPU.
During the era of former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama the Jakarta provincial built a monument to remember the victims of the May 1998 tragedy at the Pondok Rangon TPU.
Amnesty International Indonesia campaign spokesperson Puri Kencana Putri meanwhile said that to this day the state has shown no political will to resolve past gross human rights violations. Yet, she said, in post 1998 Indonesia the legal infrastructure to address this has become stronger.
The evidence of this, she said, is the presence of the Komnas HAM which has better legal powers, the formation of Komnas Perempuan and the Joint Fact Finding Team (TGPF) into the May 1998 violations.
“So the next government must have an agenda of resolving past cases. And make it the state’s obligation to provide guarantees of legal certainty [to victims]”, said Putri. (sas/ain)
On May 12, 1998, security forces fired into a crowd of student protesters from the Trisakti University near their campus in West Jakarta, killing four students and injuring several others. This proved to be the spark which set-off mass demonstrations and rioting in Jakarta with angry mobs taking over the streets, looting and setting fire to Chinese Indonesian owned shops and targeting ethnic Chinese communities in a wave of violence that lasted for three days. More than 1,000 people were killed in Jakarta alone, many of them looters who died in a series of large fires. Initial estimates uncovered evidence of at least 168 rapes in the capital with another 300 reported nationwide. Most of the victims were Chinese Indonesian women.
Presidential hopeful and former Army Special Forces (Kopassus) commander Prabowo Subianto along with Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs former General Wiranto were both implicated in the riots in a 2003 report by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). Wiranto, who at the time held the post of Defense and Security Minister as well as the commander of the Armed Forces, has been accused of having command responsibility for the riots as well as the Trisakti and other student shootings in 1998 but has never been investigated over the case.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Keluarga Korban 98 Minta Sterilkan Kabinet dari Pelanggar HAM”.]