“Set them free,” musician Sting said, when he learned that the Russian government imprisoned the band Pussy Riot for expressing their rights to protest.
Last month, he switched concert venues in Manila after he was petitioned by an environmental group. It turned out that the owner of the venue, a business tycoon, has a record of destroying green areas to develop malls and parking lots.
Sting is an undeniably a genius of a musician. But one thing that he is also well known for is his exceptional support for human rights and environmental issues.
In 1987, Sting wrote a song titled “They Dance Alone”, or “Cueca Solo” in Spanish. The song was about Chilean women who took to the streets, protesting the disappearance of their loved ones under Pinochet’s dictatorship. Fearing persecution, they didn’t protest with signs or words. Instead they danced the cueca with pictures of their beloved husbands, children, brothers and sisters held tight in their arms.
What does this have to do with Munir Said Thalib?
When I started working in the social and political field five years ago, it was the story of Munir that inspired me.
I never met the man, but I have heard from the people closest to him of his dedication, commitment and courage in defending and voicing out victims and families of human rights abuses and political kidnappings. That was enough to make him a personal hero.
Today marks the birthday of Munir, the eighth year that has passed since his murder by poison on a flight to Amsterdam.
When I ask around, people are still familiar with his name, but not very familiar with what he did for this country and why was he murdered. Most of us tend to forget that his case is still unsolved.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called solving Munir’s murder a “test of our history” and urged the government to act.
He formed a special independent fact-finding team in 2004 to investigate the case, and the team brought some of the culprits to court. However, the case has been left hanging as of now because the mastermind behind the conspiracy has not been revealed.
As much as people glorify Munir as a hero and a role model, I fear that my generation takes this pleasure for granted without doing anything tangible to support the government in standing up for justice and human rights.
That’s why when I heard that Sting was coming to Jakarta, some friends and I started a petition at www.change.org/TheyDanceAlone with a simple and modest request: to dedicate “They Dance Alone” to Munir, and the people he defended.
If Sting sings this tomorrow, it will not solve our human rights problems. I believe, however, that it will magnify our hopes for justice in Indonesia.
People will be reminded of how crucial it is to continue Munir’s audacity to build a better nation and more young people, the new generation, would be inspired to actively follow his path.
Finally, to Sting, if you’re reading this, tonight I shall go to your concert with excitement. I hope you sing my favorites. Whatever happens, I am sure I will go home feeling entertained. But if you do sing “They Dance Alone” for Munir, we’ll be more than entertained; we’ll be inspired.
The writer is petition starter and currently working with Perhimpunan Pendidikan Demokrasi (P2D).