For Munir’s Widow, Jokowi’s Pick of Adviser Grates

Suciwati, the widow of slain human rights activist Munir Said Thalib. (Antara Photo/ Fanny Octavianus)
Suciwati, the widow of slain human rights activist Munir Said Thalib. (Antara Photo/Fanny Octavianus)
Malang/Jakarta. The widow of slain human rights activist Munir Said Thalib has urged President-elect Joko Widodo to bar anyone serving in his administration with a questionable rights record, after one of the men linked to Munir’s murder was named an adviser to the team preparing the new government for office. “Joko Widodo has promised to resolve human rights abuse cases; the real action must start from now,” Suciwati, who has campaigned ceaselessly for justice in her husband’s 2004 murder, said on Monday in her hometown Malang, East Java. For the past week Suciwati has taken to Twitter to bombard Joko and his vice president-elect, Jusuf Kalla, with criticism of their appointment of Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono, a former head of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), as an adviser to their transition team. “If you’re consistent with your platform to uphold human rights and try the violators, you should have started by appointing no one with problematic human rights record @jokowi_do2,” Suciwati, tweeting from @SuciwatiMunir, wrote in one of her tweets last week. Hendropriyono was never charged over the death of Munir, who was poisoned while in transit in Singapore on a trip from Jakarta to Amsterdam, but his deputy at the BIN at the time, Muchdi Purwopranjono, was indicted and later acquitted in the case. Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, an off-duty Garuda Indonesia pilot at the time, was convicted of killing Munir by giving him a drink laced with arsenic. Several indications of his links to the BIN emerged during his trial but were not followed up on. Joko has dismissed any notion of Hendropriyono being involved in human rights abuses, citing the lack of proof. “Is that [accusation] true? You can’t just point your finger at someone and accuse them of involvement [in human rights abuses]. You can’t do that. And I don’t really understand if the accusation is true or not,” he said last week as quoted by “If you want to prove [Hendropriyono guilty], then prove it,” Joko added. But Suciwati criticized his statement, saying, “If you’re the president @jokowi_do2, it’s your obligation to bring the case to court. It’s incorrect to [state that] Hendropriyono’s involvement in human rights violations must be proven by us. That sounds defensive.” Suciwati told the Jakarta Globe on Monday that the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and other rights organizations had already compiled evidence about past rights abuse cases. Unfortunately, during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s decade in office, their findings were never taken up by law enforcement agencies, Suciwati said. “Joko must communicate with Komnas HAM and other organizations that have evidence of human rights violations. There should be trials to present all that [evidence]. He should not leave the matter of investigation with the public,” Suciwati said. “Human rights is not a political commodity. If he has promised [to resolve rights abuse cases], then he must fulfill it by forming a government that is free of human rights violators.” Hendropriyono was also involved in a bloody military crackdown on civilian protesters in Talangsari, Lampung, in 1989, notes Haris Azhar, the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) — the rights organization founded by Munir. Haris questioned the need for Joko to associate with Hendropriyono, much less have him serve on the team advising him during the transition of power from the Yudhoyono administration. He called for a presidential decree to specifically address past human rights abuses. “We’ve conveyed this matter [the need for the decree] to Joko’s legal team,” Haris said. He added that not only should the decree be used to bring perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice, but it must also include provisions to clear the names of rights abuse victims, including the tens of thousands of people subjected to prejudice and discrimination because of their alleged ties to the banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). An estimated 500,000 people are believed to have been killed in the military-led purge of suspected PKI members and sympathizers in 1965-66. Andi Widjajanto, a senior member of Joko’s transition team, said that regardless of Hendropriyono’s role in the team, Joko would keep his promise to address human rights abuses. “He respects the legal standing of [Hendropriyono] and guarantees that there will be no impunity for anyone,” Andi said last week as quoted by “If any member of the team should undergo a legal process concerning any case, then they must be undergo the process.” Suciwati reminded Joko that many people, including human rights activists, voted for him in the July 9 election because of his promise to address human rights issues. She also noted that his rival, Prabowo Subianto, was a former Special Forces commander with his own checkered record of human rights abuses, including the abduction of pro-democracy activists in 1997-98, and the alleged murder of civilians in East Timor during the early 1990s. “Hendropriyono’s appointment shows no good intention,” Suciwati said. “That’s why we must push and remind Joko that if he wants to lead this country, he should be different from his predecessor.” Yudhoyono, who took office in 2004, the same year Munir was murdered, at the time promised Suciwati that he would ensure all those responsible would be brought to justice. Ten years on, Suciwati is still waiting.

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