Subject: JP: Indonesia in 2001: Human Rights Ignored?

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

The Jakarta Post Friday, December 28, 2001


2001: Human rights ignored?

Todung Mulya Lubis, Lawyer, Jakarta

This year was the beginning of a new century, the beginning of Megawati's government. The public held high hopes that 2001 would mark the beginning of a new awakening in the economy, law, politics and human rights. Sadly, we have not seen any clear signs that such an awakening is about to commence.

On the contrary, we see symptoms that there will be no basic changes in the management of our nation, which is the return of the centralized role of the state and the strengthening of political stability.

There has been strong resistance from the regions who want a bigger role, which is partly a result of the success of Law No. 22/1999 on regional autonomy. We all know that the central government not only possesses authority on some policies, such as foreign, security, justice and several other policies, but we must remain alert to campaigns to revise Law No. 22/1999, which could substantially reduce the previously expanded regional autonomy.

In relation to the central government's authority in politics, security and justice, we shall talk about human rights.

What has been done in the field of human rights? It seems that the year 2001 has not given us any achievement in human rights that we can record. Just look at the human rights violations in Aceh, East Timor, Papua, Maluku, Poso, Sampit, Trisakti, Semanggi, Tanjung Priok, all of which have not been seriously handled.

This shows that the wounds and sufferings of the victims have never been attended to. This indicates that a sense of justice has been continuously neglected, even though the solving of human rights cases could provide basic capital for Megawati's government in rebuilding the nation's sense of unity. Trust toward the government can be established if these human rights violators are brought to court. Unfortunately, the Megawati government cares more about the political elite, because it believes that political support for the government will come from the elite, especially those holding political leadership positions. Unfortunately, the Megawati government cares more about its good relations with the military and the police, because it worries that bringing the human rights violators from the military and the police to justice will weaken the country. The Megawati government will have to pay very dearly for this erroneous political calculation and assumption, because what is correct is that support for Megawati's government will actually come from the public, who will respect the government's firm attitude if human rights violators are brought to trial.

I do not wish to be too hard on Megawati's government, as it faces so many challenges on all fronts. Neither do I want to deny that there will be an adhoc human rights trial for the East Timor case, but we must honestly admit that this adhoc trial originates from the days of Abdurrahman Wahid's government. Next, we can also say that Law No. 26/2000 on human rights trials is the product of Abdurrachman Wahid's government, and prior to that, Law No. 39/1999 on human rights is a legacy of Habibie's government. So what has Megawati's government done?

If we cast our minds back to the past, we can remember the idea of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which will be an integral part of a comprehensive solution of human rights violations. The proposition was first aired during the days of Abdurrahman Wahid's government, but it was discontinued. We need the existence of the commission to heal the deep wounds of the past that cover the entire country.

We still notice the differing opinions on the true nature of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whether it will be oriented toward "distributive justice" or "restorative justice". However, we should search for a meeting point of the differences. What we do not see today are the efforts of Megawati's government. The silence of her government on this commission signals that it does not have a clear concept on settling cases of human rights violations. At the same time it could be said that Megawati's government has taken an attitude that appears to take little note of history. Just look at South Africa, which started its new government by comprehensively settling the cases of human rights violations caused by the apartheid system. We certainly do not have to photocopy South Africa's model, but we should learn from that experience in order to reunite this nation and to heal past wounds.

When Cory Aquino became the president of the Philippines, replacing Ferdinand Marcos, her first order was to ratify international rights instruments so that today the Philippines is the nation among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that has the most extensive legislation of national human rights. It has ratified almost all basic instruments on human rights of the United Nations, such as the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, all of which are now part of the law of the land.

It is a pity that we do not see any positive signals from the Megawati government in relation to our joining an international community that respects human dignity and values.

One day during a human rights class at the University of California, Berkeley law school, my lecturer, Frank Newmann, asked "What is U.S.'s human rights policy?" He did not wait for an answer. He said that U.S. human rights policy is no policy.

Professor Frank Newmann's question and answer could be relevant to the situation in Indonesia today. The answer to "What is Indonesia's human rights policy?" could probably be the same "Indonesia's human rights policy is no policy".

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