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Indonesia: Apology 'not enough' for some rights-abuse victims

last update: April 27, 17:58

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Jakarta, 27 April (AKI/Jakarta Post) - Several victims and their families are skeptical about Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s plan to apologize for human rights abuses.

Saying sorry was not enough, according to Maria Catarina Sumarsih, 60, the mother of Bernandus Realino Norma Irmawan, a student who was killed in the 1998 Semanggi shooting incident.

“What concerns us is that no concrete actions will be taken as a follow-up to the public apology,” she told The Jakarta Post on Thursday

Sumarsih said that it was important for the government to first acknowledge the gross human rights violations that happened in the past.

“This step is possible through the National Commission on Human Rights [Komnas HAM], which could work as an institution that could launch an investigation. It can also decide whether crimes from the past can be categorized as gross human rights violations,” she said.

Albert Hasibuan, a member of the Presidential Advisory Council responsible for legal issues, confirmed on Wednesday that Yudhoyono intended to deliver an apology to the victims of past rights abuses.

The council is now preparing a draft speech of apology for the President’s approval.

Human rights activist Usman Hamid said that state acknowledgment of previous human rights abuses would be included in the apology.

Usman was part of a discussion with the Presidential Advisory Council on the apology and was present during a meeting on the issue with Yudhoyono.

“As for the final result, let us wait and see,” he told the Post.

He said that the civil society groups and political parties at the House of Representatives could put pressure on the President to take concrete steps on past rights abuses.

A previous apology was made by then president B.J. Habibie, who also called for a thorough investigation for past rights abuses. However, no action was taken.

Another president, Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, made a similar gesture and agreed to rehabilitate the victims of rights abuses, although again, without serious follow-up.

Sumarsih said that she feared that the planned apology by Yudhoyono would end in the same way.

M. Daud from the Commission for Missing Person and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said that victims would need legal certainty from the government on whether rights abuse had taken place.

“As the legal process for the right abuse cases stalls at the Attorney General’s Office, the reality is the stigma and the discrimination remain. Look at the people in

Talangsari,” he said, referring to the village in Lampung where soldiers went on a rampage against suspected members of the banned Indonesian Islamic State movement in 1989.

The government has said 27 were killed in the mayhem; others have maintained that the true number of those killed was almost 10 times higher.

Daud said that until today, the people of Talangsari had no access to public facilities including electricity and roads.

A father of one of the victims of the Talangsari violence, Azwar Kaili, 70, said that he wanted Yudhoyono to guarantee equal rights for the residents of Talangsari.

“He has made this promise before,” he said,” he said.

“We need him to walk the talk.”

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