Sat, 18 Mar 2000

Activists and the government overlook ex-political detainees

By Dewi Anggraeni

MELBOURNE (JP): Most Indonesia watchers would agree that the country has made a definite turn toward a better and more democratic Indonesia, though the road is dangerous and the journey unpredictable.

A conference held recently in Melbourne, entitled "Rethinking Indonesia", clearly conveyed this message.

The conference painted an extensive picture for participants to assess for themselves the achievements and gaps so far.

One gap, it appeared, is the fate of former political detainees, casualties of the New Order regime.

Speaking about the role of the political left in the future of Indonesia at the conference was Hardoyo, a former political detainee. While his paper was an interesting summary of the situation, one aspect hit the participating audience a little below the cerebral level. Many later commented only on that aspect.

Hardoyo spoke of what former political detainees like himself still had to face in this increasingly democratic Indonesia.

In an era where globally, apologies and reconciliation are words weighted with hopes for a better society, the fate of the former political detainees has somehow slipped the broader vision of those in power, as well as most social activists.

President Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur, is no doubt aware of the importance of apologies as the beginning of a healing process, a precursor to reconciliation, because he recently went to East Timor to personally deliver an apology to the people of the newly independent nation.

Gus Dur has also asked the current minister of home affairs, according to Hardoyo, to lift the oppressive and discriminating Ministerial Instruction no. 32/1981, yet until now it is still in place.

The offending decree is entitled the Guidance and Monitoring of Former Political Detainees and Prisoners of G30S/PKI, referring to the coup attempt of Sept. 30 1965, and has been responsible for severely limiting the basic freedom of those it purports to protect.

As Hardoyo told The Jakarta Post, "We merely shifted from a small prison to a larger one called society."

On their release, the political detainees and prisoners had to sign a document, stating among other things, that they rejected Marxism and communism; whole-heartedly accepted Pancasila; would not become involved in political activities; and most importantly, forfeit the right to sue the government for the imprisonment and subsequent treatment meted out to them.

For someone who was detained without trial for 13 years, Hardoyo does not come across as cripplingly embittered. When at a meeting with Gus Dur, the President asked him what he wished the government to do for him, but he only asked that his full rights as a citizen be restored. He did not ask for compensation.

Hardoyo said that as an ex-political detainee he could not move from one province to another without a permit from the governor's office. The permit is only given if there is a guarantee from a third person that he will observe all the rules imposed on him.

"In essence, we are regarded as no more than idiots, who do not have full control of our faculties," he said.

To go overseas, the conditions are even more stringent. He has to prove no involvement in any political activities; be suitably employed; have a testimony of good behavior from a local government head; have a written guarantee from a person or an institution deemed reliable that he will return to his place of residence; and that he will not visit any places other than that nominated in the application for the permit.

In employment he is to avoid work that can influence other people directly or indirectly in terms of developing communist ideology, which includes teaching, religious work, puppeteering, legal aid and journalism.

He is also not allowed to work in a job where there is an apparent large concentration of people, such as in a company where all the workers consists of former political detainees and prisoners associated with G30S and the banned Indonesian Communist Party.

Hardoyo said he is also prevented from taking part in social activities which are deemed to have the potential to cause disturbances in socio-political, economic and cultural spheres as well as national order and security.

The control even stretches to monitoring the thoughts of former detainees and prisoners. They are not to display any attitudes or manners deemed to have the potential to undermine the strength of the Pancasila ideology.

Hardoyo, born on March 6, 1934, in Kediri said his parents taught him to be "compassionate toward and, if necessary, defend, those less fortunate than themselves."

These values drove him to join forces to drive and keep the Dutch away during the second political clash in the 1940s, and work against harsh initiation programs for university students by joining a left-leaning student organization, CGMI, where he was elected general chairman of the working committee at the 1960 congress.

In his subsequent positions he served on the education, cultural, sports, religion and health committees.

On Nov. 10 1966 he was arrested, then detained, in military detention centers in Nirboyo and Salemba in Jakarta. Hardoyo recounted that for their sustenance, the detainees relied a great deal on aid from church organizations, humanitarian bodies and family members.

Some of the highlights of his incarceration were making acquaintances with occasional detainees, including activists such as Subadio Sastrosatomo, Marsillam Simandjuntak, Rachman Tolleng, Sjahrir and journalist Mochtar Lubis.

Hardoyo said he does not know why democracy and human rights activists seem to overlook the injustices meted out to people like himself. He hopes that the truth and reconciliation commission yet to be formed will take up their cause.

"I think this commission will have an extremely tough job, handling so many cases of human rights violations that happened and are still happening, in such an extended geographical area, involving a great number of people," he said.