Marking 17 years of Kamisan actions, activists say they will continue fight for justice

Source – January 18, 2024
Sumarsih (second left) at commemoration of 17 years of Kamisan actions – January 18, 2024 (Kompas)

Novianti Setuningsih, Jakarta – A commemoration of 17 years of Kamisan (Thursday) actions was held opposite the Merdeka Palace in Central Jakarta on January 18.

The action, which began at around 3 pm, was attended by scores of participants and human rights activists who could be seen wearing all black clothing symbolising their steadfast love for humanity.

Among the participants attending was Maria Katarina Sumarsih, the mother of one of the victims of the Semanggi I tragedy in 1998. Also present was economist Faisal Basri and human rights activists Haris Azhar and Fatia Maulidiyanti.

During the commemoration, the participants again called for the government to fully resolve past human rights violations.

Sumarsih said that at the commemoration of 17 years of Kamisan actions they are emphasising that the families of the victims will continue to stand firm in fighting for the demand that the government to uncover the truth about past human rights abuses.

"This is our way of surviving, fighting to reveal the truth, seeking justice, fighting forgetting and fighting impunity", Sumarsih told reporters.

"And as to whether the Kamisan actions have had any benefit, for me there is. Maybe, if there had been no Kamisan actions, Pak [Mr] Jokowi [President Joko Widodo], Pak SBY [former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] would not have been able to create, for example during Pak SBY's time, a team to resolve cases of past gross human rights violations", she reiterated.

Lokataru Foundation for Human Rights Executive Director Haris Azhar meanwhile said that the commemoration of 17 years of Kamisan actions shows that the [families] of the victims of human rights violations and solidarity groups are stronger than those in power.

Conversely, the government that was sworn in constitutionally has actually let down many of the values agreed upon by society.

"Today, these 17 years show that the community of victims, Ibu [Mrs] Sumarsih, Ibu Suci[wati] and others, they have shown more character and taken a position as defenders of the rights guaranteed under the constitution", said Azhar.

"Conversely, the people who are sworn in, who live in those luxurious buildings, who have statutory mandates, it is actually they who have let down the values agreed upon by the nation and society", he reiterated.

The Kamisan actions were first initiated by Sumarsih and Suciwati. Suciwati is the widow of the renowned human rights defender Munir Said Thalib who was assassinated in 2004. Sumarsih meanwhile is the mother of Bernardus Realino Norma Irmawan or Wawan, who was shot dead by security forces during the Semanggi I tragedy on November 13, 1998.

The Kamisan actions were inspired by the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, who held peaceful actions protesting the disappearance and murder of their children by the Argentina military junta.

As was the case with the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Sumarsih and her colleagues hold the actions in front of the Merdeka Palace, which is seen as a symbol of power.

The actions are usually held from 4 pm to 5 pm every Thursday. The first Kamisan was held on January 18, 2007, and was called the Aksi Diam (Silent Action).

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "17 Tahun Aksi Kamisan Digelar di Seberang Istana Merdeka, Bertahan untuk Berjuang Cari Keadilan".]