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Parents of dead students seek justice

Jakarta Post - December 2, 1998

Jakarta – The parents of six students who were shot dead in the clashes between students and security forces on Nov. 13 demanded on Monday the Armed Forces (ABRI) leaders are held responsible for the incident.

The parents, who have appointed the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) to represent them, said that the shootings should be thoroughly investigated. "We want justice from the government ... they should not only express apologies and condolences to the families," one of the parents, Asih Widodo, 46, told a media conference at the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation's (LBH) Office in Central Jakarta.

Asih is the father of Sigit Prasetyo, 18, a student of YAI college, who was shot in the chest at the Semanggi cloverleaf on Nov. 13. Asih, a construction worker, said that Sigit was his only child.

Kontras coordinator Munir said that at least 19 people, including six students were killed during a series of clashes between students and security forces on Nov. 13 and Nov. 14.

He said that 11 of them died from bullet wounds. The Jakarta Post has confirmed that 16 were killed during clashes of Nov. 12 to Nov. 13, six of whom died of bullet wounds including five of the six students. Munir also said that at least six students are reported still missing. ABRI announced on Nov. 22 that about 163 soldiers were to be punished for the shootings and violent acts against student protesters in the run-up to and during the recent Special Session of the People's Consultative Assembly which ended Nov. 13.

Munir, however, said that those soldiers have been made scapegoats. "Kontras believes that officials at the decision-making level within ABRI should also be held responsible for the shootings," Munir said.

Students nationwide have been calling for the ouster of Minister of Defense and Security/ABRI Chief Gen. Wiranto following the shootings near the Atma Jaya University on Jl. Jen. Sudirman.

Wiranto, who has repeatedly said that none of the security officers deployed at the Semanggi cloverleaf on Nov. 13 had used live bullets, told the House of Representatives on Nov. 24 that the 5.56millimeter live bullet found in a victim's body did not belong to the armory of any ABRI troop unit.

ABRI spokesman Maj. Gen. Syamsul Ma'arif said earlier that the bullet had exploded into three pieces inside the victim's body.

Answering questions from the foreign press on the shootings, Minister of Education and Culture Juwono Sudarsono said on Nov. 20 that "there are rogue elements within the military who are interested in further discrediting the current defense minister Gen. Wiranto".

Juwono, who had just received students at his office at the time, however, did not elaborate further on who "the rogue elements within the military" were. He only said that attempts to discredit Wiranto were part of "the power struggle up in the top echelons of the government".

"Faced with this ... along with criticism from the students and other dissidents ... the defense minister is in a very difficult position," Juwono had said.

Munir said Monday that the Nov. 13 shootings should not end up like the fatal shooting of four Trisakti University students in May which remains a mystery. "There is a strong tradition of the government to evade accountability in cases which could lead to the correction of ABRI's dual function," Munir said.

The National Commission on Human Rights set up their own team to investigate the Nov. 13 shootings last week. Deputy chairman of the rights body, Marzuki Darusman, said that the team will complement the government's explanation of the shootings pointing out that more information is required to establish who was responsible for the tragedy.