Subject: Debate on Human Rights in Indonesia election unlikely

The Jakarta Globe

June 5, 2009

No Debate on Human Rights

by Camelia Pasandaran

The General Elections Commission says human rights had been left off the list of official topics for discussions during the upcoming presidential and vice presidential debates because of objections from the campaign teams of the three candidate pairings.

KPU Chairman Abdul Hafiz Anshary was responding to criticisms on Thursday about the omission of the topic in the commission-organized debates.

Abdul did say, however, that he would again discuss the issue with the campaign teams, and that they could "replace one of the debate topics" to include the subject.

Earlier in the day, several leading human rights organizations criticized the KPU for the omission, demanding the election organizer include the topic during the five public debates to be aired on separate television stations.

The groups said that due to the weak rule of law and poor enforcement of human rights violations, it was important to learn about the vision of the candidates regarding these issues.

"It's important to know the candidates' point of view on these subjects, because none of the candidates are free from past human rights violations," Syamsuddin Radjab, chairman of Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association, alleged on Thursday.

The controversial human rights records of vice presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto and Wiranto, both former generals, are well known, but a group statement alleged that Yudhoyono's government had a low-level commitment to protecting its citizens, citing the Lapindo mudflow disaster and unresolved human rights abuses, including those allegedly involving Prabowo and Wiranto.

The organizations said that the human rights topic's absence from the planned presidential candidates' debate is possibly a way to avoid the public demand for better human rights enforcement in Indonesia.

"Debate on this topic will be valuable for the public to see their commitment on law and human rights enforcement," Patra M. Zen, director of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, said on Thursday.

He said that problem regarding unsolved cases of human rights and law enforcement should be solved as soon as possible.

"Without highlighting this issue, the next government may run from its responsibilities and repeat human rights violations again in the future," Patra said.

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