Subject: Rights victims pray for Suhartos recovery, but call for justice to be upheld

Also: SBY calls for halt to Soeharto debate; JP Editorial: The Untouchable

I N D O L E F T - News service > >

Rights victims pray for Suharto's recovery, but call for justice to be upheld

Tempo Interactive - January 11, 2008

Purborini, Jakarta -- As many as 30 protesters from the Solidarity Network for the Families of Victims of Human Rights Violations (JSKKPH) went to the Pertamina Central Hospital on January 11 to call for former President Suharto to be tried.

"I pray that 'Pak' [Su]Harto will get well soon, but justice must still be upheld", said Anwar Umar, a victim of the 1965 killings, when speaking in front of the hospital lobby.

The wife of the late Munir, Suciwati, also brought a wreath of flowers for Suharto. Suciwati arrived along with her daughter and accompanied by the coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Usman Hamid.

Hamid also called for Suharto to be tried. "There is no statute of limitations on human rights violations", said Hamid. Hamid said he hoped that proposals not to follow up rights violations would not abrogate the responsibility of past violations by government institutions. Particularly he said, institutions in the security field.

"All of these cases must be handed over to the courts, and it would be good if the attorney general made a legal ruling on the matter", added Hamid.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

The Jakarta Post

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


The Untouchable

There was great hope nearly a decade ago that victims of state violence and all Indonesian people would have justice, when president Soeharto stepped down after 32 years in power.

The political climate was fully in favor of the people, with the People's Consultative Assembly, then the most powerful legislative body in the country, ordering an investigation into alleged corruption, collusion and nepotism involving Soeharto and his cronies.

Few people today would remember the Assembly decree, which has remained just a piece of paper, not because the legislative body has lost much of its power, but because of the forgiving mentality which has long characterized this nation.

Political leaders who once cried for reform in 1998 have slowly but surely eaten their words when it comes to Soeharto's alleged crimes. They have lately been seen on TV, gathering at Pertamina Hospital in South Jakarta to express their gratitude for Soeharto, and chanting in unison about the need for the nation to forgive the former president.

The around the clock media coverage of Soeharto's fight for life has elicited sympathy, including from former political enemies of Soeharto's New Order regime, for the former strongman, who is now lying helpless in a hospital bed, clinging to life with the help of machines.

Since Soeharto was admitted to the hospital on Jan. 4, the media has offered continuous updates on Soeharto's fight for survival. Just about every media outlet in the capital has reporters on standby at the hospital. One TV cameraman was warned by his boss after he missed footage of Soeharto that rival stations aired.

It was perhaps this endless media coverage that prompted former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to fly to Jakarta and visit their old friend. Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah was the latest to pay a visit to Soeharto.

Most of the reports on Soeharto's deteriorating health have helped shape the public opinion that the former dictator is just a man who made some mistakes, and therefore deserves forgiveness now that he is apparently facing the last episode of his life.

Nobody in the media has looked at those who were made to suffer during Soeharto's rule. Thousands of people were killed in the military-backed countermove against the communists, many perished in the rebellious provinces of Irian Jaya, or Papua, Aceh and East Timor, not to mention all those who disappeared for their opposition to Soeharto.

These atrocities, which surely took place with Soeharto's knowledge, will remain open wounds plaguing the nation if they are left uninvestigated. With the truth and reconciliation commission still absent after the Constitutional Court declared its formation in 2005 unconstitutional, there is no body to hold Soeharto accountable for these crimes.

As long as this continues, Indonesia will be known as a nation without justice, where laws can be broken with impunity. Other countries that once fell under military rule, like Chile, have dared to bring former leaders to justice, in order for the nation learn from the past.

Soeharto, who the Assembly at one time named the Father of Development, looks likely to keep his name clean, at least in his lifetime, with the attorney general dropping corruption charges against him on grounds commonly applied to the deceased. And the civil lawsuit against Soeharto's foundations look set to end amicably after an out-of-court settlement was offered to Soeharto's family. It will be just a matter of time that the government will name Soeharto a national hero.

The latest statement from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who said now was not the time for the nation to talk about legal matters involving Soeharto, will probably kill off any remaining debate over the alleged crimes of the self-appointed five-star general.

That Yudhoyono and other state officials underline the need to respect Soeharto for his contributions to the country clearly shows how powerful the former president remains, and how powerless the nation is to uphold justice. Do not be surprised, then, if in the future many others join Soeharto in the club of the untouchables.


The Jakarta Post Sunday, January 13, 2008

SBY calls for halt to Soeharto debate

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has urged the nation to stop focusing on former president Soeharto's pending legal cases while he remains in a critical condition in hospital.

"Let us stop all debates and arguments as they are unwise and improper at this time," the President said, as quoted by Antara, during a press conference at his private residence in Cikeas, Bogor, on Saturday.

He said it was inappropriate for members of the public to bring up legal cases pending against Soeharto while he remained in intensive care after reportedly suffering from multiple organ failure Friday.

The President also encouraged all Indonesians to pray for the ailing former president's health.

Yudhoyono reminded the public that during Soeharto's time as president, he did many things for the Indonesian people, including steadily developing the country's economy.

"Despite some shortcomings, we still need to show him the respect and gratitude he deserves," the President said.

He said the government was not concerned about looking into Soeharto's pending cases while he remained in a critical condition in hospital, despite calls from observers over the past few days.

"We can discuss the matter when the time is right and will seek a solution that is just and in accordance with the law," he said.

Meanwhile, a member of the presidential medical team, Dr. Munawar, said Saturday evening Soeharto's condition had not changed much throughout the day.

Earlier in the day, head of the presidential medical team Dr. Mardjo Soebiandono said Soeharto's condition had started to improve since Friday night.

"After experiencing a critical period last night, Soeharto's condition has shown some signs of improvement this morning," Mardjo said during a press conference at the hospital Saturday morning.

"His blood pressure is stable at a level of 90-100/40-50 mmHg. However, he is still breathing through a ventilator," Mardjo said, adding that liquid that had started to build up in Soeharto's abdomen had lessened.

Despite improvements in Soeharto's condition, he was still critically ill, doctors said.

"Minor bleeding occurred in his gastric tract. An accumulation of liquid and some signs of infection were also found in his lungs," said Mardjo.

He said laboratory results also revealed that Soeharto's hemoglobin levels had dropped.

"He is still receiving a blood transfusion and is being treated with medicine for a lung infection and to keep his body's fluid levels in balance," said Mardjo.

Separately, a member of the presidential medical team, Dr. Christian Johannes, denied speculation Soeharto had stopped breathing on Friday night.

Reports that Soeharto was in a critical condition Friday night attracted journalists from both the local and foreign media to Pertamina hospital.

Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, who was previously implicated in the September 2004 murder of rights activist Munir Said Thalib, arrived at the hospital at 3:45 p.m.

"I came here as a member of the public to pray for Pak Harto so that he will get well soon," Pollycarpus said.

Among visitors to the hospital Saturday were industry minister Fahmi Idris, former minister Bustanil Arifin and House of Representatives legislators Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno, Ali Mukhtar Ngabalin and Guruh Soekarnoputra.

From Karanganyar, Central Java, reported Saturday that Central Java's Diponegoro Regional Military Commander Maj. Gen. Agus Suyitno dismissed reports his visit to the Soeharto family cemetery was to prepare for the former president's funeral. (alf/uwi)

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