Election Watch

Victims have high hopes
for election

“Two years ago, I strongly opposed Pak Jokowi’s gubernatorial bid in Jakarta because one of the parties that nominated him had been involved in the kidnapping of Wiji Thukul. On many occasions, I forwarded my protests to him through his close aides. One day, I was on the same plane with Pak Jokowi on my way home to Surakarta. He approached me and, while holding my hands, he said, ‘I haven’t forgotten about your brother. Really, this is just a strategy to set up the right conditions.’ He repeated the same promise when we met again on another occasion. To prove that he hadn’t forgotten about my brother, he allowed several public spaces in Jakarta to be painted with murals featuring Wiji Thukul. And now he has come forward to confront Prabowo!”

The above words were written by Wahyu Susilo, the younger brother of poet Wiji Thukul who disappeared in 1998, on his Facebook page as soon as Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairperson Megawati Soekarnoputri officially announced the presidential nomination of Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on March 14.

In a recent interview with The Jakarta Post, Wahyu, who actively promotes the rights of Indonesian migrant workers, expressed his concerns over the increasing popularity of Gerindra Party chief patron and presidential hopeful, Prabowo Subianto, who previously topped pollsters’ surveys of the most popular presidential candidates — until Jokowi was included among their number.

The Jakarta-based National Survey Institute (LSN), for example, released the results of a survey in July last year, which revealed that Prabowo, a former chief of the Armys Special Forces (Kopassus), was the most popular political party leader.

Previously in September 2012, a Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) survey also showed that Prabowo would garner the most votes (19.1 percent) if an election were to have taken place then, leaving behind other party leaders, such as Megawati with 10.1 percent and Aburizal Bakrie of the Golkar Party with 10 percent.

However, since Jokowi was included on the list, he has consistently outshone Prabowo, bumping the former son-in-law of former president Soeharto into second place. Various other surveys have found the same thing: That the popularity of the former Surakarta (Central Java) mayor is second to none.

“I personally think that he [Jokowi] is aware of the public’s hope and is, therefore, willing to run in the presidential election. Prabowo would go forward without a hitch if Jokowi wasn’t running, and if that happened, Indonesia’s dark history would repeat itself,” Wahyu said.

Wahyu was referring to the still unsolved forced disappearances of pro-democracy activists in 1997-1998, during which his brother Wiji was kidnapped for promoting democracy and human rights through his poems.

Separately, Mugiyanto, chairman of the Families of Missing Persons Association (IKOHI) and one of nine kidnap victims in1998 who were released alive, also applauded Megawati’s decision to endorse Jokowi’s presidential bid.

“Now we can breathe a sigh of relief because Prabowo is not the only presidential candidate being idolized. Jokowi is there, too. And he is a more humanist figure,” Mugiyanto said.

Prabowo and the Hanura Party’s chairman, Wiranto, are alleged to have been involved in the forced disappearances of activists, which the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) have declared as gross violations of human rights. A 2003 Komnas HAM report alleged that Prabowo, in his capacity as Kopassus commander, and Wiranto, then commander of the Indonesian Military (TNI), were responsible for the human rights violations that occurred during extensive rioting in Jakarta in 1998, which marked the beginning of the end of Soeharto’s New Order regime.

The commission’s investigation found that “security authorities at the time failed to curb widespread riots that were taking place simultaneously”.

A military investigation by the Officers Honorary Council (DKP), of which President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was a member, also found that the abduction of 23 activists during the 1998 riots was committed by Kopassus troops with the help of several military institutions and the police. Eleven Kopassus soldiers were sentenced in February 1999 to varying terms of imprisonment, up to a maximum 24 months, for their alleged roles in the disappearances, while Prabowo was stripped of his post.

So far, there have been no court proceedings against either Prabowo or Wiranto, despite the years of calls for justice by relatives of the 13 activists who were never found, including Wiji.

Senior PDI-P politician Sidarto Danusubroto, who is also chairman of the Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR), said recently that the party intended to reopen discussions on the recommendation issued by the House of Representatives in September 2009 for the establishment of an ad hoc human rights tribunal to hear the case.

“That is the plan. Let’s see what happens. […] However, it is obvious that certain figures have begun to panic since we officially nominated Jokowi to contest the upcoming presidential election,” Sidarto said.

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