Opinion

Widow sees spouse's killers
get justice, another waits


Kornelius Purba, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Patsy Spier and Suciwati Munir both lost their husbands to brutal killers. Both Spier, an American, and Suciwati, an Indonesian, are undoubtedly brave women who have never given up their pursuit of justice, in Suciwati's case despite receiving death threats.

For one of these women, a bit of closure has finally been reached. After four years of struggle to unravel the truth, including tireless travels and exhaustive lobbying of officials in the White House and State Department, Spier on Tuesday received an answer as to who killed her husband, teacher Ricky Lynn Spier, on Aug. 31, 2002, in Timika, Papua.

Suciwati is still searching for answers about who poisoned her human rights activist husband aboard a Garuda flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam in September 2004. The Supreme Court last month quashed the murder conviction of Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, the only person so far tried for the murder.

On Tuesday, the Central Jakarta District Court sentenced Papuan Anthonius Wamang to life in prison for leading the ambush that led to the deaths of two American teachers, Ricky Spier, 44, and Edwin Leon, 71, and an Indonesian, FX Bambang Riwanto. Several other people were injured in the attack, including Patsy who was shot twice. All of the victims were employees of copper and gold miner PT Freeport Indonesia.

Six other Papuans were sentenced to between 18 months and seven years in prison for their parts in the ambush.

""I am gratified that the Indonesian court, after due consideration of all the evidence and facts, determined that Anthonius Wamang and other defendants are guilty. I am convinced that these verdicts are correct,"" Patsy said in a letter to The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

We are happy that Spier's tireless struggle has finally borne fruit. Some questions, however, remain: Who were the masterminds -- if any -- of the Freeport attack? Were these seven Papuans the only ones responsible for the killings? What about the rumors -- hopefully untrue -- that they were only the muscle, sent out to kill by a dalang (puppet muster) who remains free.

And what about Suciwati? Like Spier, she has traveled to Washington and other cities in search of support for her campaign to bring her husband's murderers to justice.

Both Spier and Suciwati succeeded in persuading the U.S. Congress to pressure the U.S. and Indonesian governments to take concrete measures to find those responsible for the deaths of their husbands.

Some Indonesian officials, like Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda and Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono, are so nationalistic they strongly oppose any foreign pressure in the Munir case. The two ministers, however, have failed to criticize their boss, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for not daring to take on a small group of powerful people who know much about Munir's death.

""This is not just about Munir. It's about the human rights situation in this country,"" Suciwati once said.

But no one knows when she will be able to tell Spier, ""I also have found the killer of my husband."" Her children, Soultan Alif Allende and Diva, probably will have to wait for years before they know for sure who took their father.

The National Police initially suspected the Army's elite Special Forces (Kopassus) might have been involved in the killing of the Freeport employees. The U.S. government reportedly also shared this suspicion in the beginning. In Munir's case, the police reportedly thought the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) was involved in the killing.

Many Indonesians wondered why U.S. President George W. Bush was rather quiet for months after the fatal ambush in Papua that left two Americans dead, and why the FBI took such a low profile during the investigation. It had pretty much been standard procedure for Washington to issue a harsh statement every time an American citizen was killed in a foreign country. But not in this case. It was relatively mute for months.

Some speculated it was because Freeport is too lucrative to be ignored, while according to others President Bush did not want to offend the Indonesian government, including the Indonesian Military, which has been very supportive of his war on terror.

Patsy Spier and Suciwati Munir have shown us that if we want justice, sometimes we have to depend on our own efforts, particularly when the political elite have an interest in covering up the crime.

Suciwati said: ""We cannot tire in our search for justice."" Hopefully these words, and the actions of these two women, can inspire others who have suffered an injustice.

The writer can be contacted at purba@thejakartapost.com.

Post Your Say

Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.

From Our Networks