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ETAN opposes appointment of retired general Ryamizard Ryacudu as Defense Minister

East Timor and Indonesia Action Network Statement - October 26, 2014

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) today condemned Indonesia President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's appointment of retired General Ryamizard Ryacudu as Minister Defense.

"The appointment of a hardliner like Ryamizard Ryacudu tells us that President Widodo is not serious about promoting human rights or reaching out to West Papua," said John M. Miller, Coordinator of ETAN.

"He is a relic of the past with a history of excusing rights violations by soldiers, threatening human rights critics, and asserting the military's right to meddle in civilian affairs."

Miller added, "While fighting corruption may be a priority for his administration. He certainly didn't take into account Ryamizard's well-reported statements on human rights. This speaks volumes about the importance of human rights to Jokowi."

Indonesia's anti-corruption agencies vetted cabinet nominees at President Widodo request. He rejected several based on their recommendations.

While campaigning President Widodo responded positively to some calls for justice for past human rights violations, including those from 1998. He has also said he would open a new dialogue with West Papua.

In a statement released in late June human rights groups urged the next government of Indonesia "to break with the past [and] fully and meaningfully address the legacy of impunity for past human rights violations," adding that "the continued lack of accountability for past and ongoing violations of human rights threatens lasting progress."

Background on Ryamizard Ryacudu

Retired General Ryamizard Ryacudu is a hardliner known for his xenophobic remarks and criticisms of rights activists. He has expressed doubts about civilian supremacy over the military. Indonesian human rights activist Usman Hamid wrote that Ryamizard is "widely known for his hard-line stance on human rights and separatism without considering government policy."

He oversaw the implementation of martial law in Aceh, which began in May 2003 and took hundreds of lives. At that time he opposed negotiations, telling Time magazine: "Our job is to destroy GAM's military capability. Issues of justice, religion, autonomy, social welfare, education? Those are not the Indonesian military's problems," In the same interview, he responded to reports of his soldiers executing unarmed children, saying: "If they are armed and fire, they will be shot, because children and women can kill, too."

Later that year, Ryamizard said that anyone who opposes army policy should be considered an anti-government rebel and therefore a legitimate target. Allan Nairn writes:

"Ryamizard clarified the army's definition of what makes a person an enemy when speaking of civilians who were unhappy with the state of siege. He indicated that anyone who had such feelings would be defined by the army as 'GAM,' i.e. a member of the Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, the Aceh Freedom Movement.

"'People who dislike the military emergency in Aceh are GAM members,'" Gen. Ryamizard said, 'So if they have the same voice as GAM members, this will mean that they are the younger brothers of the separatist movement.'

This categorization was hugely significant since the official approach to GAM was: "hunt them down and exterminate them," in the words of the armed forces commander (Gen. Endriartono, May, 2003, quoted by Amnesty."

After the conviction of several Kopassus special forces members for the murder of West Papuan leader Theys Eluay, Ryamizard said that "I don't know, people say they did wrong, they broke the law. What law? Okay, we are a state based on the rule of law, so they have been punished. But for me, they are heroes because the person they killed was a rebel leader."

Ryamizard is close to former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, who heads Widodo's political party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Ryamizard as Kostrad commander mobilized troops in central Jakarta on July 22, 2001 as parliament was preparing to impeach President Wahid on what many believe were trumped up charges, inspired by Wahid's reforms and his apologies for human rights violations committed by the military in Aceh, West Papua and Timor-Leste.

In Power Politics and the Indonesian Military (pp. 184-5), Damien Kingsbury writes:

"By morning, a series of tanks, armoured cars and armed soldiers encircled the base of the National Monument in the centre of the square; further tanks, armoured cars and soldiers guarded the main entrances to the area, with police in front of the MPR building and more soldiers and armoured vehicles in front of the presidential palace. In all, there were some 2,000 soldiers, 35 tanks and 25 armoured cars, and many of the tanks had their guns pointing at the relatively few supporters of the beleaguered president and at the presidential palace itself. It was not a coup, but equally it was perfectly clear that the army would not allow the removal of the president from office to be marred by any unforseen difficulties. It was not, and Megawati became president on 23 July 2001."

In 2004, during the last days of her administration, Megawati nominated Ryamizard as chief of the armed forces. Her successor, President Yudhoyono, denied him the promotion.

Contact: John M. Miller, ETAN, +1-917-690-4391, +1-718-596-7668, john@etan.org

Source: http://etan.org/news/2014/10ryamizard_ryacudu%20.htm.

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