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Jakarta Post

Jokowi skips Human Rights Day event amid criticism

  • Marguerite Afra Sapiie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, December 11, 2018   /   06:18 pm
Jokowi skips Human Rights Day event amid criticism President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo attends the 21st ASEAN-China Summit in the Suntec Convention Center in Singapore on Nov. 14 (Antara/Bayu Prasetyo)

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo decided to skip an event commemorating International Human Rights Day on Tuesday amid criticism the incumbent is not doing enough to resolve past human rights abuse cases.   

Jokowi was initially scheduled to give a speech at the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) headquarters and accept the commission’s recommendations, but the President delegated his vice president, Jusuf Kalla, to attend the event on his behalf instead.

"The President apologizes that he is unable to attend the event because of his busy schedule," Kalla said in his speech. "I was supposed to attend a Human Rights Day event at the Law and Human Rights Ministry, but the President told me to go to Komnas HAM instead.”

If Jokowi had attended the event, he would be the first Indonesian president in the country's history to ever visit the office of the state rights body, which handles various cases of rights violations, including investigations into past human rights abuse cases.

"It would have been a historic visit because, for the first time since Komnas HAM was established 25 years ago, a president visited our headquarters," Komnas HAM commissioner Beka Ulung Hapsara said after the opening of the event on Tuesday morning.

Komnas HAM's recommendation included several suggestions for the country to resolve, among others, issues related to intolerance, agrarian conflicts and cases of gross human rights violations in the past, Beka said.’

Human rights activists hold a rally in front of the State Palace in Jakarta on Thursday, demanding justice for past human rights abuses. The rally, also known as Kamisan, has been held routinely every Thursday for more than 10 years.Human rights activists hold a rally in front of the State Palace in Jakarta on Thursday, demanding justice for past human rights abuses. The rally, also known as Kamisan, has been held routinely every Thursday for more than 10 years. (The Jakarta Post/Dhoni Setiawan)

In their 2014 presidential election campaign, Jokowi and Kalla promised to protect human rights as well as resolve cases of human rights violations. The promises were translated into their administration's nine-point development plan called Nawacita.

The Jokowi-Kalla administration has promised to resolve at least seven cases of gross human rights violations in the past, including the 1965 communist purge and the 1998 riots, however, human rights activists and families of victims have criticized the government's sluggish efforts to settle the cases over the years.

With Jokowi seeking re-election next year, facing his old rival Prabowo Subianto, a former military general with a checkered human rights record, the incumbent candidate is facing renewed pressures to keep his promises on human rights. 

A coalition of civil society groups, comprising the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute and the Foundation of the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI), as well as victims and families of victims of past human rights abuses, criticized Jokowi's no-show at the event.

They described his decision to avoid meeting victims who had waited in front of Komnas HAM's office as "Jokowi and Kalla's political stance of showing no commitment to upholding human rights and resolving past human rights abuse cases and other violations".

"[Kalla's] initial plan to leave from the [Komnas HAM office’s] back door is very disappointing. Nawacita, which lists Jokowi’s and Kalla's promises, are just lies at the end," they said.

"We require assurance that [Kalla's] attendance at the event was not just a gimmick ahead of the 2019 presidential election, but an occasion to discuss strategic and concrete ways to solve [human rights abuse cases].”

The activists also criticized what they perceived as Jokowi’s heavy-handed approach in dealing with criticism.

With its Twitter account @KontraS, the human rights group took a direct jab at the Jokowi-Kalla administration by posting pictures and videos showing police and military personnel forming a blockade in front of activists and victims of human rights abuses, who stood in line while carrying signs of protest in front of the Komnas HAM headquarters.

Many of them brought black umbrellas, the signature prop used by those who participate in the weekly Kamisan, a silent protest that has been held routinely every Thursday for more than 10 years to demand justice for victims of human rights abuse cases.

"We initially lined up in order. Then we were blocked by three layers of police and military personnel (military, though we were not at war and not at the country's border) the @jokowi @Pak_JK regime is a liar, loser [and] repressive," Kontras tweeted.