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Families of rights victims leave empty handed after meeting with Jokowi comes to nothing

KBR - May 31, 2018

Ria Apriyani, May Rahmadi, Jakarta – Presidential spokesperson Johan Budi says that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had long wanted to meet the families of victims of past gross human rights violations.

He claims that on two occasions the president tried to invite them to a meeting but that the invitation was never conveyed to the families.

"The president tried to convey [an invitation] on two occasions. But I don't know how or what happened, I don't know. Then when [Widodo] heard it from Pak Usman [Hamid], the president responded, [saying] yes alright tomorrow then. Then a meeting was arranged", said Budi at the Presidential Palace complex on Thursday May 31.

He said that Widodo wanted to hear for himself what had been experienced by the families of the victims, including their hopes and wishes. Although during the actual meeting, he said, no decision of any kind was reached.

Widodo promised only that in the near future he would summon Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo and Coordinating Minister for Security, Politics and Legal Affairs (Menkopolhukam) Wiranto to ask that they act as a bridge for communication between the government and the families of victims.

"It won't be handed over to the KSP [Presidential Staff Office]. It was just about process. This development, how can it be handled, the ibu-ibu [mothers of the victims] can ask [presidential chief of staff] Pak Moeldoko. The ones handling it will still be the Attorney General and the Menkopolhukam, coordinating with Komnas HAM [the National Commission on Human Rights]", he said.

Earlier meeting

Amnesty International director Usman Hamid meanwhile said that the meeting with Widodo happened because of an earlier dialogue on law and human rights that took place at the Palace on Wednesday May 30.

The dialogue involved legal experts, university rectors and a number of non-government organisations concerned with the law. During the closed meeting, Usman criticised the Widodo administration for not being serious about solving past human rights cases.

"[I said] not one case of past gross human rights violations has been resolved. I also cited the Trisakti, Semanggi I and Semanggi II [student shootings in 1998], the May 1998 tragedy, the Tanjung Priok [shooting of Muslim protesters] in 1984, the Talangsari [massacre] in 1989, the abduction of activists in 1997-1998, and even the mass killings in 1965-1966", said Usman in a speech at a Kamisan or Thursday Action adjacent to the State Palace on Thursday May 31.

Then, Usman continued, Widodo did conceded that not one of the cases had been resolved and that not even one case had made any headway or been taken to court.

Usman then asked Widodo to do something concrete. For a start, he asked Widodo to meet with the Kamisan action protesters. Widodo, said Usman, claimed that he was informed that the Kamisan protesters did not want to meet him.

"The president said that he had already offered to meet with the Kamisan action [participants]. But I heard that they didn't want to. I refuted this. I said there had never been any such proposal. The president then explained that it was a staff member who said this. I didn't want to debate the issue and [instead] asked the president to schedule [a meeting] so [that's how] it happened", said Usman.

500 or more Kamisan

Today, after more than 500 Kamisan or Thursday actions in front of the State Palace, representatives of the families of past human rights violations finally met with Widodo at the Palace.

The 20 or so family members of victims of the Trisakti, Semanggi, Talangsari, the 2003 Wamena tragedy in West Papua and Tanjung Priok shootings spoke with Widodo for around an hour.

During the meeting Widodo was given several dossiers. The group's representative, Sumarsih, said that one of the dossiers was related to a demand that Widodo acknowledge past gross human rights violations.

"The second was a document with input on the mechanisms for resolving cases of past gross human rights violations", said Sumarsih. "Then we also handed over a resume on the developments in all of the cases of gross human rights violations."

No decision

Following the meeting, Maria Catarina Sumarsih, the mother of Benardinus Realino Norma Irawan (Wawan), a victim of the Semanggi I tragedy, said that no decision at all was reached at the meeting.

"What was conveyed by Pak Johan was that Bapak President needs time to study it. Then Bapak President asked that we chase down Bapak Moeldoko as if [we should] pursue him about our request to Bapak President to acknowledge cases of past gross human rights violations which have already been investigated by Komnas HAM", said Sumarsih at the Presidential Palace complex on Thursday.

Sumarsih said that the meeting earlier did not produce any kind of clarity whatsoever in relation to the legal process that would be followed up as requested by the families. At the meeting Sumarsih also handed over a dossier on cases that still haven't been resolved by the government.

The families demanded that the government publically acknowledge that the Semanggi, Trisakti, the forced disappearance of activists in 1997-98, the May 13-15 riots in Jakarta in 1998, the Talangsari, Tanjung Priok and 1965 anti-Communist purge were gross human rights violations. They also asked that these cases be immediately investigated and tried in court.

During the meeting, she said, Widodo asked for time to study the dossiers she handed over and that he would coordinate with the Attorney General and Komnas HAM.

"We asked Bapak President to attend a Kamisan action and give us some hope and spirit that what we have been requesting and asking for and what was written in the Jokowi-JK [Vice President Jusuf Kalla] mission statement would truly become a reality", she said.


Maria Sanu, the mother of Stevanus Sanu who disappeared during the May 1998 riots in Jakarta, said she was disappointed with today's meeting with Widodo. Based on what was conveyed by Widodo to the families, she said, there was nothing whatsoever that was new.

"Yes well that indeed was about it. (I'm) disappointed. Never mind that mother's [my] child disappeared, was burnt alive. How should I feel? A mother who has carried a child, given birth, his body has never been found, how should I feel?" said Maria fighting back tears.

Maria has waited 20 years for her son to come home. The latest information she has is that Stevanus had gone to the Yogya Plaza on the day that it was burnt down. Today, when she met with Widodo, Maria arrived wearing all black carrying a photograph of Stevanus in both hands – the son that disappeared 20 years ago.

Wiranto absent

Johan Budi admitted that the meeting between Widodo and the families did not indeed involve Wiranto or Prasetyo. Basically, according to Budi, the new [sic] president wanted clarification from the families about their demands and wishes.

"As I've already said, at this meeting the president mostly wanted to listen. The president didn't know all the details yet right. Of course the meeting earlier was quite short, [there was no time] to go into all the details", said Budi at the Presidential Palace complex on Thursday.

Both Wiranto as well as Prasetyo have been given responsibility for resolving outstanding cases of past human rights violations. Wiranto has been entrusted to coordinate the overall effort.

During today's meeting with Widodo and the families at the Palace however, both were absent. Wiranto was seen at the Presidential Palace complex earlier attending the inauguration of new presidential advisory board members. But following the inauguration he hurried out to his official vehicle saying that he had duties elsewhere.

Budi added that the president will summon Prasetyo and Wiranto to discuss how to follow up on today's meeting. So far, he said, the president has not been able to take any kind of decision on the string of past human rights violations that have been left hanging in the air.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. Sub-headings were added and two paragraphs moved for better continuity. The original title of the article was Jokowi Temui Peserta Aksi Kamisan, Keluarga Korban Malah Kecewa.]

Source: http://kbr.id/berita/05-2018/jokowi_temui_peserta_aksi_kamisan__keluarga_korban_malah_kecewa/96245.html.

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