Presidential candidates accused of turning human rights into political commodity

CNN Indonesia – December 10, 2018
Kontras Deputy Coordinator Putri Kanesia (centre) – December 10, 2018 (CNN)
Kontras Deputy Coordinator Putri Kanesia (centre) – December 10, 2018 (CNN)

Jakarta – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) says that the issue of past human rights violations are turned into a political commodity every time there is a presidential election. Yet, after one of the candidates is elected as president, human rights issues are simply ignored.

“Each time human rights start out as a political banquet then it’s always turned into a bargaining chip by candidates. Then after they’re elected issues related to human rights are no longer a priority”, said Kontras Coordinator Putri Kanesia at the Kontras offices in Jakarta on International Human Rights Day Monday December 10.

Kanesia said that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as the incumbent presidential candidates is an example of someone who turns the issue of human rights into a political commodity. This was demonstrated by lack of any follow up after Widodo met with representatives of the families of victims of past violations at the State Palace on May 31.

At the time, Widodo who was accompanied by representatives of the presidential staff, the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) and the Attorney General’s Offices, met with representatives of the victims of the 1965-66 anti-communist purge, the 1984 Tanjung Priok shootings, the 1989 Talangsari massacre and the families of victims of the May 1998 riots in Jakarta, the forced disappearances of political activists in 1997-98 and the Trisakti, Semanggi I and Semanggi II student shootings in 1997-98.

Widodo, she said, pledged to resolve past human rights violations but to this day, the promise has never been realised.

Because these pledges are never realised, said Kanesia, Kontras is convinced that in 2019 there will not be one human case which will be brought before an ad hoc Human Rights Court.

“So the chances of this are indeed closed. So we say that there is no space for human rights. Because the facts are that this is what has happened, not many candidates are looked at in terms of their track record related to whether or not they are involved with cases of human rights violations”, she said.

Impunity monitoring division staff member Dimas Bagus Arya Saputra added that the meeting between Widodo and the families of victims in May should have been a catalyst to formulate concrete steps to resolve human rights violations which prioritise the principles of justice and truth for the victims.

“It turned out however that the meeting was little more than an exercise in political image building carried out by Joko Widodo in the lead up to the 2019 political contest”, said Saputra.

Saputra also touched on the Presidential Chief of Staff at the time, Moeldoko, who never followed up Widodo’s proposal to accommodate the wishes of the families and start a dialogue with the victims in order to formulate a way to resolve the cases.

“to this day Moeldoko has still not taken any steps or actions to interact with the victims and the families of victims of past gross human rights violations”, he said. (jps/osc)

See: Families of rights victims leave empty handed after meeting with Jokowi comes to nothing – KBR. May 31, 2018

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “KontraS: Isu HAM Jadi Komoditas Politik Capres Setiap Pemilu”.]