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Politics may be behind Tanjung Priok probe report

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2000

The National Commission on Human Rights' committee for the 1984 mass killing in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta (KPP HAM Tanjung Priok), has come under fire for its report to the House of Representatives (DPR) suggesting to summon parties related to the killings instead of recommending a trial. Political scientist Arbi Sanit of the University of Indonesia thinks it is politically motivated.

Question: Why didn't the committee make a report that would make it possible for the culprits to be taken to court?

Arbi: It seems that the long held fear of families of the Tanjung Priok victims has come true. When the team was established [earlier this year], the families – suspecting that some of its members had political interests – demanded that they be replaced. The way it has turned out now, the team's report is neither accurate nor transparent.

Because those responsible for the killings are not clearly identified in the report, they can not be taken to court. The police and the Attorney General's Office will have no evidence to further pursue a legal process.

Actually, the suspects of the human rights violations can be put into two categories – the decisionmakers, who ordered the raid, and field commanders who ordered the shootings or stabbings. Records can show who shot or stabbed whom to death.

Do you think that the team members – Djoko Soegianto, Sulistyowati Sugondho, Aisyah Aminy, Samsuddin, B.N. Marbun, Charles Himawan, Saafroeddin Bahar, Mohamad Salim and Albert Hasibuan – were not professional in carrying out their tasks?

I believe the team members have high integrity. That's why I don't think the unclear report was caused by a lack of professionalism. It might have been influenced by political considerations.

What are the political considerations?

The Tanjung Priok incident was full of religious sentiment. Because religious conflicts are now prevailing in Maluku and other parts of the country, the team members are apparently apprehensive of triggering a new nationwide conflict between Muslims and Christians, if they clearly identify those responsible for the killings.

Perhaps they were forced to take this political consideration to avoid the prospect of being blamed in the event of nationwide conflict by refusing to be frank in their report.

Do you think the team's alleged March 24 meeting with the Indonesian Military (TNI) forms the basis of a conspiracy?

The political consideration might have trapped them in a conspiracy because TNI officers feared the legal processing of those responsible may affect the military's reputation. But the conspiracy might have also indicated that former military chief L.B. Moerdani still has influence over military officers.

But the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has accused the Tanjung Priok committee of having manipulated data related to the case, hasn't it?

The political reason, if it is true, has apparently discouraged the team from continuing to identify those responsible for the instruction and the killings. As a result, the team appears to be unprofessional in the case, even though its members are usually professional with other cases.

Then what should the team do?

If the disclosure of those responsible for the killings will not cause any rioting or national conflict, the investigation must be continued. Otherwise, the investigation must be stopped or, at least, delayed. We have been facing various problems and, therefore, we must not create a new problem. But such a reason must be made known to the public.

How can we know that the disclosure will or will not cause a conflict?

The Tanjung Priok committee, the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) or the DPR must hold hearings with religious leaders. If the leaders can guarantee that the disclosure will not cause any rioting or conflict, the investigation can be continued.

The unsubstantial report of the Tanjung Priok committee may have been purposely tabled to delay [a prosecution]. If the public or any party wants a trial for the culprits, Komnas HAM will have to appoint a new team to start a new investigation all over again. If Komnas HAM is no longer trusted, the police and the Attorney General's Office will have to do the investigation by themselves from the very beginning.

How can the victims' families, who used to be very vocal, keep silent about the team's unsubstantial report?

I don't know exactly. But in other places, vocal protesters usually receive concessions, politically or financially, from the authorities and they are silent after that. Some organizations, like the Muslim Students Association (HMI), may protest or hold demonstrations but their protests will concern the legal aspects only.