Jakarta – Dionysius Utomo Rahardjo, the father of pro-democracy activist Petrus Bima Anugrah who was abducted in 1998 for challenging Suharto's New Order regime, is pessimistic that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo will resolve the human rights violations that took place in 1997-1998 if he is re-elected in April.
Since becoming president in 2014, Widodo has been unable to resolve any cases of past human rights (HAM) violations. Rahardjo said this is difficult to realise because the former Mayor of Solo is surrounded by people who themselves stand accused of violating human rights.
"[I'm] very pessimistic that it will be realised, because there are perpetrators of HAM violations in Jokowi's inner circle, said Rahardjo during a press conference at the Grand Cemara Hotel in the Menteng suburb of Jakarta on Wednesday March 13.
Nevertheless, Rahardjo was reluctant to cite which figures surrounding Widodo are human rights violators. He said only that they can be sure that these people do not have the same understanding as Widodo on solving cases of past gross rights violations.
"I'm convinced that Jokowi is indeed a good person, but those in his inner circle don't agree with Pak [Mr] Jokowi, certainly you already know, exactly who is there, you defiantly know [who they are]", said Rahardjo.
Nevertheless, Rahardjo claimed that he is still pinning his hopes on Widodo to resolve the cases if he is reelected for a second term.
He also declared that he will still support Widodo and vice presidential running mate Ma'ruf Amin in the 2019 presidential elections even though Widodo failed to resolve any past cases during his first term.
He stated that Widodo is the only person who can still be hoped to resolve these cases compared with the other presidential candidate (capres) Prabowo Subianto.
"But I think there is still hope, I still trust Pak Jokowi, he has a heart and listens", he said.
Petrus Bima was a People's Democratic Party (PRD) activists from Malang in East Java who was reported missing in mid-March 1998. To this day his family still does not know his whereabouts.
Also speaking at the press conference was Paian Siahaan, the father of missing 1998 activist Ucok Munandar Siahaan. He believes that Widodo has not carried out any significant reforms in relation to past rights violations.
"That's right, if we think in the short term, yes that's true, we fell angry with Jokowi if we meet with him", said Siahaan.
Nevertheless Siahaan is still hanging onto the hope that Widodo will resolve the cases because he is convinced that the door to resolving past rights violations will be closed if Prabowo is elected president.
"Out of the two candidates the one hope is Jokowi, if Prabowo wins the door will be closed, so we are trying, I am sending SMS messages to all of my colleagues to vote for Jokowi", he said.
The families of the abducted activists, who are part of the Indonesian Association of Families of Missing Persons (IKOHI), also took the opportunity to call on the public not to vote for Prabowo in the 2019 presidential election.
"The families of the victims [of abductions and disappearances post 1998] declare that all of us reject the capres who is an abductor, the capres who is a HAM violator, Prabowo. This is a concrete expression from them all", said IKOHI advisory board chairperson and abduction victim Mugiyanto at the press conference. (rzr/pmg)
Between 1997 and 1998 as many as 23 pro-democracy activists 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 dismissed from the military in 1998 over the abductions, has admitted to ordering the abductions but denies ordering their torture and claims they were all released alive and well. The issue resurfaced on March 11 after presidential advisor former Kopassus commander retired General Agum Gumelar claimed that he knows the fate of the missing activists and that Prabowo should be held accountable for the disappearances.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Keluarga Korban 1998 Pesimistis pada Jokowi, Tolak Prabowo".]