Jakarta – As many as 115 pro-democracy figures are urging President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to go after and prosecute the intellectual actors behind the 2004 assassination of renowned human rights defender Munir Said Thalib.
One of the 115, Public Virtue Research Institute (PVRI) representative Yansen Dinata, said that solving Munir's assassination could change the face of human rights in Indonesia. It would also help in preventing such killings being repeated and improve the image of Indonesia's democracy which has been regressing of late.
A number of figures have joined together to urging Widodo to take action including University of Indonesia sociologist Tamrin Amal Tomagola, former Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Commissioner Busyro Muqoddas, Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid, human rights activist and Lokataru Foundation Executive Director Haris Azhar, former Indonesian president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid's daughter Anita Wahid, Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) Chairperson Asfinawati, Andalas University Constitutional Studies Centre (Pusako) Director Feri Amsari, Solidarity Action Committee for Munir (KASUM) Secretary General and constitutional law expert Bivitri Susanti and Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Coordinator Fatia Maulidiyanti.
"We from a number of organisations and pro-democracy figures urge President Joko Widodo to solve the Munir case by first demanding that the intellectual actors behind his death be tried in court", said the group in an official press release confirmed by Yansen Dinata on Tuesday September 7.
Dinata said that solving the case quickly and fully will give birth to a guarantee that assassinations such as this are not repeated. Resolving Munir's murder, he continued, would also be a milestone for efforts to implant the principles of protecting differences in opinion and upholding the political rights of all citizens.
"Solving the Munir case will affirm an end to obsolete and uncivilised practices in the form of using political violence in Indonesia", said Dinata.
The group believes that the Munir case was a political killing or assassination. It is strongly suspected that the cases was linked to the political situation when the incident occurred (September 7, 2004), namely two weeks before the second round of the country's first direct presidential elections on September 20, which saw former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono defeat incumbent president Megawati Sukarnoputri.
"Munir's participation in the first round of the presidential elections in July 2004 could be an important factor in revealing the motive and factors which triggered the incident, including the effect which was desired by the intellectual actors of Munir's murder in the democratic electoral politics at that time", said Dinata.
According to the group, Munir's assassination cannot be separated from the critical stand which he took against security institutions such as the military and the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), with several people from the secret agency allegedly involved in the murder. Munir was vocal in calling for state accountability in prosecuting certain elite figures with a background in the military and human rights violations.
"The logic of political assassinations is different from ordinary political violence. The characteristic is that the victim of a political assassination is very likely the target of an assassination. Based on experiences in other countries, political assassinations often befall people who are considered to be at odds with the government", said Dinata.
Reflecting on the incident, Dinata is of the view that the Munir case shows how dirty Indonesian politics was at the time and the minimal security guarantees and legal protections that existed for democracy, human rights and social justice crusaders.
"Because of this, we are urging President Joko Widodo to have the courage to go after the intellectual actors behind the Munir Said Thalib case", he asserted (ryn/ain)
Munir died of arsenic poisoning onboard a Garuda Indonesia flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on September 7, 2004. Although off-duty pilot Pollycarpus Priyanto was convicted of the murder in 2005 the alleged mastermind behind the assassination, former National Intelligence Agency (BIN) deputy Muchdi Purwoprandjono, was later acquitted of all charges. Also implicated in the murder but never investigated was former BIN chief AM Hendropriyono. Hendropriyono, a close ally of Megawati Sukarnoputri – the chairperson of President Joko Widodo's ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) – was cited in US diplomatic cables leaked in 2011 as being involved in the planning of Munir's murder. In 2014 Hendropriyono was appointed an advisor to newly elected President Widodo.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "115 Tokoh Desak Jokowi Usut Aktor Intelektual Pembunuh Munir".]