The Jakarta Post
The National Commission on Human Rights ( Komnas HAM ) has answered public criticism of its failure to take a stand on the human rights record of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto by officially endorsing Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo.
According to Komnas HAM's official assessment announced on Thursday, the vision, mission and programs of Jokowi were more dedicated to human rights protection than those of Prabowo, a former general who was dismissed from the military in 1998 for his involvement in kidnapping pro-democracy activists amid the fall of his former father-in-law Soeharto in May 1998.
'In regards to the vision and mission of the pairing of Prabowo Subianto and Hatta Rajasa, Komnas HAM concluded the background of the country's problems identified by them was too general and prone to multiple interpretations,' Komnas HAM chairman Hafid Abbas said at the commission's headquarters in Menteng, Central Jakarta.
Therefore, it would be difficult to measure their achievements in fulfilling basic human rights in the country, said Hafid.
On the other hand, Jokowi and his running mate Jusuf Kalla's vision and mission had identified in detail the country's human rights problems and how to uphold universal values, Hafid added.
He went on to criticize Prabowo for failing to commit to guaranteeing the right to assembly and freedom of speech in his platform.
Last year, the House of Representatives passed the controversial mass organization bill into law, despite intense debate over the bill's impact on democracy.
Many activists had said the bill would limit the right to assembly and become an instrument for suppressing organizations critical of the government.
Hafid said Jokowi's vision and mission were 'clearer in terms of what the presidential candidate would do to ensure people's political rights and civil rights, such as by reforming the police and regional administrations and intensifying the central government's monitoring of them.'
According to him, the police and the regional administrations, along with corporations, were the three institutions most often reported to Komnas HAM for human rights violations.
'Every year [the number of reports from the public on those institutions] keeps increasing and last year it reached 7,500 reports,' Hafid said.
Additionally, Prabowo has, according to Hafid, failed to provide a detailed stance on religious freedom, a critical issue in the country amid a recent rise in religious intolerance.
'Prabowo-Hatta has a platform on tolerance but it is not enough to guarantee religious freedom,' he said.
Meanwhile, Komnas HAM commissioner Maneger Nasution said the word 'tolerance' needed to be specifically translated into religious freedom.
'And that freedom should not be limited,' he said.
Maneger also pointed out that Prabowo had made no commitment to settling past human rights cases, which have been haunting the former three-star general.
'[Meanwhile], they [Jokowi-Kalla] are committed to settling past human rights cases,' Maneger said
National Mandate Party ( PAN ) politician Bara Hasibuan, a spokesperson for the Prabowo-Hatta campaign team, said time constraints had made the pair unable to elaborate on some of their programs, including those on human rights, in their vision and mission document submitted to the General Elections Commission ( KPU ) before the kick-off of the campaign season.
'Even though we did not include our human rights programs in the document, it doesn't mean that we are not going to do anything. We will most likely set up a truth and reconciliation [body] to deal with past [human rights] abuses,' Bara said.