National

Rights violations victims
slam statement from chief
lawmaker

Victims of human rights violations and their relatives have denounced Deputy House Speaker Priyo Budi Santoso for making negative comments about human rights investigations.

They said such a statement should not have come from someone who holds a position as a representative of the people.

Aside from denouncing the statement the victims, who were accompanied on Thursday by members of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), reported Priyo to the House’s ethics committee.

Priyo, a lawmaker from the Golkar Party, said recently that investigations into violations cases (by the National Commission on Human Rights) were unproductive because they could cause negative reactions.

“Revealing the historical facts will not solve the problem. If we keep on trying to unearth them, we will end up attempting to solve the massacre in the era of Ken Arok [a Javanese king in the 13th century],” he said as quoted by Kontras from a number of online news.

Kontras coordinator, Haris Azhar, said he and the victims condemned Priyo’s statement as disrespectful, citing that such comments should not have emanated from a House member who was supposed to defend people from injustice.

“Victims and their families are part of Indonesia’s 240 million people,” said Haris.

Haris and the victims reported Priyo to the ethics committee as they considered Priyo had violated certain laws and the House’s code of ethics. “House members have a responsibility to monitor the government in solving human rights violation cases as stipulated in Law No. 26/2000,” he said, adding that Priyo’s statement showed otherwise.

Haris expressed his concern that Priyo’s statement could also hinder law enforcement efforts concerning major human rights violation cases currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court, such as the violent riots in May 1998.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) recently announced that the state-sponsored purge that followed the 1965 aborted coup, and the summary execution-style killings between 1982 and 1985, known as mysterious killings (Petrus), met all the criteria of gross violations of human rights.

Although those cases and many others, like the 1998 riots, are widely known, the state has never officially acknowledged them as episodes of a far darker Indonesian history.

Nurhasana, whose son went missing during the 1998 violence, warned Priyo to think first before speaking, adding that he had to consider a mother who had waited desperately for 14 years to obtain information of her son’s fate.

“The government must solve the cases as soon as possible because my child, like other victims, is a human being, not an animal,” she said, holding back her tears.

Victim of the 1965 anti-communist purge, Bedjo Untung, said that Golkar, Priyo’s party, should assume responsibility for the violations, as Golkar was the primary political machine in that era.

Meanwhile, Priyo regarded Kontras’ reporting him to the ethics committee as evidence that the rights watchdog had exaggerated his statement. According to Priyo, everyone had the right to their own opinion.

“Reporting me was going overboard,” he said, adding that his statement merely highlighted a different perspective.

“Kontras does not need to censure my statement,” he said.

Priyo added that he had never suggested authorities bury cases of human rights violations. “It is better if we move forward,” he said, but he maintained he empathized with the victims’ families.

Separately, Golkar lawmaker Tantowi Yahya said he would discuss the party’s stance on this matter at its internal meeting, considering his party was in power at that time.

Officials from the House ethics secretariat promised to arrange a meeting between Priyo, the victims and their families.

A deputy House spokesman, Pramono Anung, said he supported the steps taken by Komnas HAM. “These cases must not be erased [from history]. We cannot pretend that nothing happened” he said.

“The government has the obligation to reveal the facts,” he said, adding that it could become a precious lesson for the future so as to prevent similar incidents from happening again. (cor)

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