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Victims `may not get compensation'

The Witness and Victim Protection Agency told families and victims of the 1984 Tanjung Priok massacre Saturday that it might be difficult for them to ask for compensation from the government.

A commissioner from the agency, Lili Pintauli Siregar, said she could not find ways to get the government to pay compensation to the victims for the pain and loss they had endured because the case was turned down by the Supreme Court level and no perpetrators had been punished.

"But the agency can provide victims and their families with medical treatments and counseling should they need them," she said.

Anyone wishing to enjoy the facilities, she said, must first register with the agency and provide a letter from the National Commission on Human Rights stating that they were victimized by the incident.

Coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Usman Hamid said getting medical treatment and counseling might be a good thing for victims and their families.

However, he questioned why was it was hard for the government to pay the amount of money that the victims had demanded in order to improve their quality of life. "The government needs to acknowledge the incident and admit that what was done in the past was wrong."

The Tanjung Priok massacre remains one of a number of unresolved human rights violations that the public has demanded be reopened.

On Sept. 12, 1984, a number of soldiers opened fire on a group of Muslim protesters led by Amir Biki demanding the release of four persons detained by the North Jakarta Military District Command.

The four were being held for their alleged involvement in Amir's movement protesting the government's policy of the sole basis, which required all groups to adopt state ideology Pancasila as their own ideology.

The total death toll in the incident remains unknown as Tanjung Priok residents claimed 400 people were either killed or went missing, but the government only acknowledged 18 of them.

Usman said the bloody mayhem repressed the freedom of speech. Twenty-five years on, he added, "the repression is still there although it has taken a different form".

"It's getting more and more evident during these past few years that the government is finding another way to repress people," he said.

"Using legislative power, they create laws that limit our freedom," he added, pointing out the secrecy bill and the antiterrorism law as examples.

The families and victims of the massacre, however, said they kept their faith that someday the government would acknowledge their pain, although their attempt at justice for a quarter of century had yet to provide satisfactory results.

In another attempt to search for justice, the victims and their families also sent a letter to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers on Friday, pleading for intervention in the unresolved case.

To mark the 25th year of the incident, on Saturday, victims and families retraced the scene where the protest had taken place.

Beni Biki, Amir's brother, said the retrace was important because "we need to keep remembering *the incident* so that the government will not practice any more violence in the future". (adh)

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