The government has done virtually nothing to bring to justice those who 14 years ago launched a violent attack on pro-democracy activists that precipitated the downfall of the New Order regime, a prominent human rights group has said.
Speaking at an event on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the July 27, 1996, attack on the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), Usman Hamid, coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said that the tragedy should never be forgotten.
He cited the case of leading pro-democracy activist Wiji Thukul, who went missing during the incident and has never been heard from since.
“We want to remind everyone that there were serious human rights violation in the case, and no one should forget it,” he said.
The PDI, which was then headed by Megawati Sukarnoputri, eldest daughter of founding President Sukarno, was attacked by supporters of a splinter group from the party.
The attack on the PDI headquarters on Jalan Diponegoro in Central Jakarta, however, was shored up by local police officers and soldiers from the Jakarta Military Command, and led to the deaths of five PDI members and the disappearance of many more.
Critics contend that it may have been orchestrated by then President Suharto to tighten his hold on power, but the New Order regime blamed it on the newly formed People’s Democratic Party (PRD).
Usman said the case needed to be resolved because of its importance in setting the stage for Suharto’s ouster two years later. It also served to highlight that democracy could not be based on repression and militaristic values, he added.
“Any progress toward resolving the issue always seems to end in some sort of political compromise,” Usman said.
A probe by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) found five people had been killed, 149 injured and 136 arrested in the attack.
It also found that the military’s role in the attack was approved three days beforehand at a meeting that was hosted by the Jakarta Military Command’s chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and also involved Djoko Santoso – the current president and military chief, respectively.
The PDI went on to become the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) under Megawati’s leadership.
During her presidency, several suspects went on trial for their alleged roles in the attack, but only a laborer, Jonathan Marpaung, was jailed for inciting the attack, while military officers Col. Budi Purnama and Lt. Suharto were acquitted.
PDI-P legislator Andreas Pareira on Tuesday said the July 27 tragedy would never really be resolved as long as Yudhoyono, Djoko and several other military top brass from the time continued to wield power.