Jakarta – The younger brother of missing radical street poet and labour activist Wiji Thukul, Wahyu Susilo, is urging presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto to go to the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) and testify on the abduction and the forced disappearance of democracy activists by the Rose Team in 1997-98.
"It would be fairer if Pak [Mr] Prabowo comes to Komnas HAM to testify if he is prepared to do so. Because whether he denies [responsibility] or not there was already a decision by the DKP [Officers Honorary Council]", said Susilo when he appeared as one of the speakers on the CNN Indonesia television program Trusted Election Screen on the evening of Wednesday March 13.
Widji Widodo alias Wiji Thukul disappeared after being abducted by members the army's Special Forces (Kopassus) Rose Team (Tim Mawar) during the final days of the New Order regime. To this day, the whereabouts of the man who left behind a wife and two children remains unknown.
Thukul's wife, Sipon, reported the disappearance of her husband to the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in 2000, which at the time was led by renowned rights defender Munir Said Thalib. Munir himself was assassinated in 2004 after being poisoned by arsenic during a flight to Amsterdam.
"I think we are almost all the way down the road since the case [the Rose Teem abductions] was exposed, it was uncovered by the late Cak [Brother] Munir, we will continue to fight regardless of there being a pilpres [presidential election] or not. We will continue with the search and not just at the national level, we are also pushing for this to gain attention at the international level", said Susilo.
The abduction of the pro-democracy activists by the Rose Team in 1998 has sprung up again after recent revelations by former Kopassus commander and member of the DKP, Agum Gumelar, who is now a member of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's presidential advisory team.
During a discussion not long ago, Gumelar said that the DKP dismissed Prabowo from the military because he was proven guilty of violating human rights (HAM). This was based on a one-year investigation by the DKP.
Susilo explained that to this day, Prabowo has never gone to Komnas HAM to provide an explanation or testimony on the human rights violations which resulted in Suharto's former son-in-law being thrown out of the military.
"I think this is a long-term struggle and we will never give up. No matter what the situation is we will continue to criticise and demand that the government accelerate [resoling the activist's abduction] this", said Susilo.
Susilo also touched on a recommendation made by the House of Representatives (DPR) in 2009 on the Special Committee for Missing Persons. The fact is, said Susilo, between 2009 and 2014 there was no action on this recommendation by the government of the time.
"So there is a problem aside from the procedural, there is also a political problem in the past which prevented a resolution to this case", said Susilo.
Meanwhile the spokesperson for Prabowo and vice presidential running mate Sandiaga Uno's election campaign team (BPN), Andre Rosiade, said that the families of the activists abducted in 1998 are being manipulated by incumbent presidential candidate President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo for political interests in the 2019 presidential elections.
"Ask Jokowi what he's done about it in the four years of being president. Don't [raise the issue now] because of losing in surveys, manipulating it because of not wanting to lose power", he said.
Responding to this, Susilo denied that they are being manipulated by Widodo in the interests of the presidential election.
Susilo explained that human rights defenders and the families and relatives of the missing activists have consistently tried to use whatever momentum is available to reject forgetting and to seek the truth.
"On the question of momentum, we do indeed use any momentum available. For example the momentum at the United Nations when Indonesia nominated itself [as a member of the Security Council] and now also when Indonesia is nominating itself as a member of the Human Rights Council, we put pressure on the government", said Susilo who is now a well known activist with the migrant worker advocacy group Migrant Care. (kid/dea)
Street performer and poet, People's Democratic Party (PRD) member Wiji Thukul disappeared in February 1998. It is suspected he was a victim of the military abductions along with other activists which disappeared in the Central Java city of Solo. 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 and 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. During the 2014 presidential elections, President Joko Widodo personally promised Wiji's family that he would look into the case but has never done so.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Adik Wiji Thukul: Lebih Fair bila Prabowo Hadir ke Komnas HAM".]