Jakarta – Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) Central Leadership Board Chairperson Desmond J Mahesa is convinced that presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto will not shy away from solving the 1997-98 abductions of pro-democracy activists if he is elected as president.
"With regard to the 1998 [abductions] my belief is that they will defiantly be solved. Why? Because it they're not solved the accusations against Pak [Mr] Prabowo will be [seen to be] true", said Mahesa speaking in the Cikini area of Central Jakarta on Tuesday January 15.
Gerindra chairperson and presidential hopeful Prabowo has frequently been accused of being involved in the abduction and forced disappearance of pro-democracy activists during the final days of Suharto's New Order regime.
Earlier, the deputy chairperson of President Joko Widodo and Ma'ruf Amin's election campaign team, Abdul Kadir Karding, said that Prabowo and vice presidential running mate Sandiaga Uno had problems related to human rights (HAM) saying that Prabowo is alleged to be involved in human rights violations and the 1997-98 abductions.
According to Mahesa, one of the ways to prove that Prabowo was not involved in the abduction of the activists and students is to solve the case.
"In order to say [definitively] that he was not in the wrong the incident has to be substantiated. It's impossible that he would violate a presidential oath", he said.
Desmond said that if Prabowo violated his oath as president and did not solve the case, he himself would challenge the leader of his party.
"If he violates his presidential oath, yes, I myself as a former victim will call him out. If he violates his oath of office", said Mahesa.
Furthermore, Mahesa said that the purpose for solving the 1998 abductions is so that incidents like that do not happen again.
"I'm talking about HAM, not ordinary crimes. HAM are the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens. The purpose is so that past incidents are not repeated again", said Mahesa. (sah/has)
Between 1997 and 1998 as many as 23 pro-democracy activists – including Desmond J Mahesa and Pius Lustrilanang who later went on to join Gerindra – were abducted by members of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus). After extended periods of detention – in many cases the victims were severely tortured – most were released although 13 remain missing and are presumed dead.
Former Kopassus commander Lieutenant General Prabowo Subianto, who was at the time President Suharto's son-in-law, has admitted to ordering the abductions but denies ordering their torture and claims they were all released alive and well.
In April 1999, 11 low-ranking Kopassus officers were tried by a military court for the kidnappings and given sentences of between a year and 22 months in prison, although six of them were allowed to remain in the army. Prabowo himself was discharged from the military for ordering the abductions but has never been tried in court.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Gerindra: Prabowo Bongkar Kasus Peculikan 1998 Jika Terpilih".]