Eviction of ex-Gafatar members humanitarian tragedy: rights activists

Gafatar: Former members of Gerakan Fajar Nusantara (Gafatar) stay at a temporary shelter in Kubu Raya regency, West Kalimantan on Jan. 20. (Kompas/Emanuel Edi Saputra) Former members of Gerakan Fajar Nusantara (Gafatar) stay at a temporary shelter in Kubu Raya regency, West Kalimantan on Jan. 20. (Kompas/Emanuel Edi Saputra)

The eviction of former Fajar Nusantara Movement (Gafatar) members from their homes in West Kalimantan amounts to a humanitarian tragedy as the government neglected its responsibility to protect its citizens, human rights activists say.

“The government has allowed the destruction the victims’ property and neglected its function to act as a fact finder,” Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH) spokesperson Pratiwi Febri said in Jakarta on Monday, adding that the effort to return people to their old hometowns would not settle the problem of discrimination, expulsion and mistreatment of Gafatar followers.

Gafatar has also been linked to the disappearance of at least a dozen people. Police and military personnel relocated hundreds of former members of Gafatar to Pontianak, West Kalimantan, following the burning of their homes in Mempawah regency in the province earlier this week.

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin has previously said Gafatar was an illegal organization and that community members were not permitted to join it. The group’s spiritual leader Ahmad Musadeq was sentenced to four years in prison in 2008 for religious blasphemy after he declared himself a prophet.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) director Rafendi Djamin said the Indonesian government had violated the rights of the former Gafatar members by not providing them with protection from local people who burned down their houses.

“The violent eviction of former members of Gafatar shows that the government has failed to uphold its responsibilities and act as a protector of its own citizens.  A state does not control interpretation of belief, but it does control how people who hold beliefs have their freedom protected,” Rafendi said in a press-conference.

Since Gafatar has not been proven to have committed any criminal acts, the government should not disturb them and instead should protect their rights to freedom of belief and association, as both those principles were enshrined in national and international law, Rafendi said.

However, following the burning of the their property, the government instead forced them to relocate to their old hometowns where they did not have any economic basis to live, neglecting their economic and social rights to maintain a livelihood, Rafendi added.

As internally displaced persons, the people were now protected under human rights principles and had the right to feel safe and resume their lives as they saw fit, however, the government had also neglected their right to migrate and choose their own place of settlement, Rafendi said.

Setara Institute deputy chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos said the government did not make any attempt to provide protection to Gafatar followers from intolerant groups who committed violent acts against them, while they had not violated the law and only created an organization to live by their own will.

The facts showed that the government had only prioritized national security and stability, Bonar said, as the easiest thing was to take the side of the majority who opposed Gafatar in order to not create chaos.

“Officials only comply with majority rule and have failed to facilitate dialogue between Gafatar and the majority,” Bonar said. (bbn)(+)

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