Eight years on, people remember Munir, demand new inquiry
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Remembering Munir: Activists from the Victim Solidarity Network for Justice (JSKK) stage a peaceful rally outside the State Palace in Central Jakarta on Thursday. (JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)
As the nation observed the eighth anniversary of the murder of Munir Said Thalib, people urged the government to launch a new investigation into the killing of the human rights defender.
More people also appealed to the nation to recognize and respect Munir, the man who inspired many in his fight against human rights abuses committed by state apparatuses and vigilante groups.
Although many people don’t have a personal connection to Munir, they have paid their highest respects to the human rights activist.
Fransiskus Lisbudi Setyantoko, a law student and activist at Atma Jaya University in Jakarta, said that the student executive board had collected support, through Facebook and Twitter, in its joint campaign against all forms of violence and intimidation committed by intelligence agents, state institutions and extremist groups.
“We coordinated among student executive boards to organize activities on our own campus to remember the human rights activist as well as to join with him and his spirit to speak up freely and to stop all forms of violence and intimidation,” he told The Jakarta Post here on Thursday.
Fransiskus said fellow students at the university did not know Munir, but his murder case had on several occasions become a topic of discussion on Human Rights Day.
Rieke Dyah Pitaloka and Eva Kusuma Sundari, activists-cum-legislators with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), saw Munir and his murder as a reminder of numerous unresolved human rights abuses.
Eva called on the House of Representatives and the government to award Munir national hero status.
“Munir deserves hero status for his meritorious efforts and dedication to the upholding of human rights in the country,” she said.
Rieke concurred, saying Munir’s struggle and his death have inspired people to fight for the resolution of several past human rights violations, mainly the 1965 anti-communist purges, human rights abuses under the military operation in Aceh and Papua, the riots in May 1998 and the 1997 and 1998 Trisakti and Semanggi tragedies.
She said she had been terrorized and intimidated several times but the pressure would never silence her.
Rieke urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration to reopen Munir’s murder case and to stop using terror and intimidation against the younger generation.
Munir died on Sept. 7, 2004, while he was on his way to begin a post-graduate program in the Hague. Investigations into the activist’s death concluded that Munir was poisoned with arsenic on board the second leg of a Garuda Indonesia flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam. He was found dead aboard the aircraft.
A former Garuda Indonesia pilot, Polycarpus Budihari Prijanto, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the murder, but the main actor behind the murder remains a mystery. Though many suspected former senior intelligence official Muhdi PR of having a hand in Munir’s death, he was acquitted of such charges.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said it would continue its campaign to raise the public awareness of human rights abuses while pursuing a through investigation into the murder case.
The secretary of the Committee of Actions and Solidarity for Munir (Kasum), Choirul Anam, said it organized a peaceful protest in front of the Presidential Palace on Thursday and in front of the Attorney General’s Office on Friday, demanding the attorney general to appeal to the Supreme Court for a judicial review with novums, or new evidence.
“The novums have been in the hands of the police and the team of attorneys and it is a matter of political commitment whether the attorney general wants to file for judicial review or not,” he said.
Secretary of the Democratic Party faction at the House, Saan Mustopa, declined to comment on the issue beyond saying the government was obliged to settle the unresolved case immediately.