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Families of abduction victims disappointed with Jokowi for reneging on pledge

CNN Indonesia - December 21, 2023

Jakarta – The families of the victims of forced disappearances admit that they are disappointed with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo for reneging on a promise to resolve cases of past human rights violations.

Moreover, Widodo has instead allied himself with the alleged perpetrator of the abduction of pro-democracy activists in 1997-98, namely presidential candidate number 2 Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) Chairperson Prabowo Subianto.

"Of course we are very disappointed with what was promised by President Jokowi. Even before he became president, he [said he] wanted to resolve past human rights violations, especially the cases of enforced disappearances", said the younger brother of missing radical street poet Wiji Thukul, Wahyu Susilo, at a press conference in Cikini, Central Jakarta, on Thursday December 21.

Susilo is of the view that Widodo has instead reneged on his promises and political contract for the sake of perpetuating his power. According to Susilo, Widodo has never paid any heed to the Kamisan (Thursday) actions that are held every week by the victim's families in front of the Presidential Palace.

"Instead of fulfilling the victims' rights, it turned out that he instead allied with the perpetrators. The most [important] indicator was that he did not heed the hundreds of Kamisan actions held by the victims' families", he said.

Susilo also said Prabowo's statement that cases of past human rights violations are a seasonal issue that come up every time he runs as a presidential candidate has deeply hurt the feelings of the victims' families.

In fact he believes that the abduction issue is disturbing Prabowo and the people around him because it has become an unpaid debt for them.

"The statement by the Prabowo camp which stated that the issue of the abductions, the issue of past human rights violations is a seasonal issue, is of course very demeaning. It really hurts the families of the victims and it shows the cruelty that they maintain", he said.

Susilo emphasised that the families of the victims of enforced disappearances would continue to pursue and call in this debt. According to Susilo, Prabowo has indirectly acknowledged that the cases of enforced disappearances during the era of former president Suharto were his responsibility.

"In the first [presidential] debate the other day, Prabowo implicitly admitted that the abduction cases were his responsibility by saying that the victims that I abducted like Budiman Sudjatmiko are now supporting me", said Susilo.

"This means that Prabowo was indeed involved in it. And formally there was a decision by the officers honorary council", he continued.

Now, said Susilo, the victims' families do not want to be tricked again by the other two presidential and vice presidential candidates, Ganjar Pranowo and Mahfud MD and Anies Baswedan and Muhaimin Iskandar, who have also promised to resolve past cases of human rights violations.

This time, the families of the victims of enforced disappearances want the two presidential tickets to sign a political contract with them.

"Of course I agree that we must urge them to concretise that promise in a political contract with the victims' families. This is the lesson we drew from the prank carried out by Jokowi in the past and we will continue to demand that", he said. (lna/tsa)


In 1997-98 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 at the time President Suharto's son-in-law, has admitted to ordering the abductions but claims they were all released alive and well. He was subsequently discharged from the military over the abductions but has never been tried in court. Currently serving as Defense Minister, he is running as a presidential candidate alongside President Widodo's eldest son Gibran Rakabuming Raka in the 2024 elections.

Former People's Democratic Party (PRD) chairperson Budiman Sudjatmiko (who was not one of the abduction victims) along with several survivors of the 1997-98 forced disappearances are publically supporting Prabowo's 2024 election bid, which the Prabowo camp is using to deflect criticisms about his role in the abductions. When Sudjatmiko first publically declared his support for Prabowo in July, dozens of former PRD activists responded by holding a press conference and accused him of betraying the reform movement and called for the perpetrators of past rights abuses to be arrested and tried.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Keluarga Korban Penculikan Paksa: Kami Kecewa dengan Jokowi".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20231221141156-32-1040209/keluarga-korban-penculikan-paksa-kami-kecewa-dengan-jokow