Jakarta – Alumni from 48 leading universities and institutions have thrown their weight behind student rallies for reform and vowed to establish a special network to aid families whose relatives "disappear".
After a gathering which featured a free-speech forum, the Cooperation Body of Indonesian University Alumni said Saturday they were concerned about the cases of missing persons, many of whom were students from universities they had graduated from.
"We will strongly focus on the issue of the disappearances because it is a clear violation of human rights. There will be internal cooperation among us which is aimed at giving advice and voicing these concerns," the head of the body, Kusnadi Hardjasoemantri, said as quoted by Antara.
The meeting of alumni was held at the University of Indonesia campus in Depok to commemorate National Education Day which falls on May 2.
He explained that the assistance wold cover legal and psychological counseling, both for those who disappeared and those who participated in demonstrations.
Several activists and a politician have been reported missing for the past few months. While some notable figures, namely Pius Lustrilanang, Andi Arief, Desmond J. Mahesa and Indonesian Democratic Party politician Haryanto Taslam, have reappeared, others are still missing.
The National Commission on Human Rights, in a report, has said that they were abducted by force by a well-organized unit.
When asked about the "moral movement" initiated by the students, the alumni expressed the belief that it had the backing of the public at large.
Political commentator Wimar Witoelar said protests currently being staged by students enjoyed greater public support than the ones held in 1966, which only had the backing of the Army.
The famous 1966 student demonstrations were a precursor for the New Order regime which resulted in the banishment of the Indonesian Communist Party.
Head of the central branch of the University of Indonesia alumni association, Hariadi Dharmawan, urged the "actors" in the present national development not to be ashamed to admit their faults. "We realize that the many problems now arising may have been contributed by the alumni of our alma mater, but we shouldn't be afraid to admit them," he said.
In a joint statement read by Toeti Herati Noerhadi, a professor of philosophy at the University of Indonesia, the alumni said they were "concerned that the adverse impacts of the (monetary) crisis have been exacerbated because of rampant corruption, collusion and nepotism in the bureaucracy that have led to a political crisis and a crisis in (people's) confidence (in the government)".
They also said they backed the students' push for political economic and law reforms and deplored the strong-arm approach employed by the Armed Forces (ABRI) in handling the student movement.
They said repressive actions were against the state ideology Pancasila and human rights principles.
Participants, who one by one were given opportunities to speak at the meeting, urged all members of society to join the student movement in order "to force the government to initiate total reform and eliminate the causes of the crisis".
Only by combating corruption, collusion and nepotism, and by taking concrete steps to defuse the crisis, can the government regain both local and international confidence, they said.
Koento Wibisono, representing the alumni of Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University called for total reform by upholding the law and human rights amending the 1945 Constitution and strengthening national unity.
A review of the Armed Forces' dual function – as both security and sociopolitical forces – is also needed to create a favorable political system.
Mayaksa Johan, representing alumni of the Sumatra Utara University, said political reform should be prioritized since the government has often abused the law, including the Constitution in its efforts to maintain the status quo, often at the expense of people's political rights.
"For more than 3 0 years now, the New Order administration has deceived the people and 'castrated' their political rights and freedom," he said. "We are given only the opportunity to do what the government wants us to, and are never given the opportunity to say no."