The Pancasila Monument in Lubang Buaya in East Jakarta is one of President Suharto's New Order regime's controversial legacies — presenting only government-approved propaganda about what happened during the anti-communist purge of 1965-66. (Antara Photo/M. Agung Rajasa)

Activists, Victims Lash Out as Govt Stalls on 1965-1966 Mass Graves Investigation


SEPTEMBER 22, 2016

Jakarta. Activists have lashed out at the government's "lack of seriousness" in settling past cases of human rights abuses after President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration rejected their request for a joint hearing on the progress of the cases.

Rights activists and the families of the rights abuse victims received a series of rejection letters from the Office of the Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security a week after they filed the hearing requests earlier this month.

The hearing would have shown the progress of the government's investigation into human rights abuse cases which happened during the anticommunist purge in 1965-66.

The ministry is led by General Wiranto, a Suharto-era military strongman, who himself has been accused of numerous human rights abuses.

The ministry was supposed to verify reports of mass graves containing the bodies of PKI — the banned Indonesian Communist Party — members and sympathizers in many parts of the country.

Wiranto's predecessor Luhut Pandjaitan earlier said his office had formed a special team to investigate the mass graves.

The reason behind last week's rejection remains unclear but the rejection letters stated that "data on the mass graves are currently still being discussed by a coordinating team under the ministry."

"The statement does not tell us anything," Research Foundation for Murder Victims of 1965-66 (YPKP) head Bedjo Untung said in a statement released on Wednesday (21/09). The statement was also signed by the '65 Forum and the '65 International People's Tribunal.

The latter declared two months ago that the Indonesian state should be held responsible for a wide range of human rights abuses during the 1965-66 massacres.

The government-sponsored and military-backed killings resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of alleged sympathizers of the now-defunct PKI and saw millions more imprisoned without trial.

"The verification results are urgently needed as supporting evidence in these cases," Bedjo said. "We demand transparency from this so-called special team."

The government did promise to settle the 1965-66 abuse cases, with their latest move being the staging of a national symposium earlier this year on what observers have called the worst mass killings of the 20th century.

The event gathered hundreds of senior government officials, retired generals, human rights activists, academics as well as survivors of the massacres. Recommendations from the symposium have been handed over to Wiranto's office.

"We are the people who are most affected by these abuse cases. We have the right to know what the government has done, if anything, with the symposium recommendations," Bedjo said.

After years of investigation, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) had come up with a long list of gross human rights violations for which the state is partly or wholly responsible, including the 1965-66 massacres.

The findings had been submitted to the Attorney General's Office (AGO) for further investigation but nothing has been achieved so far apart from a long-drawn debate over technical issues.