Thu, 04 Dec 2003

Doubts expressed over reconciliation commission

Kurniawan Hari, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Muslim leaders expressed doubts on Wednesday that the planned Truth and Reconciliation Commission would become an effective instrument for peaceful national reconciliation.

Speaking before legislators in charge of deliberating the bill on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Muslim leaders warned that the establishment of the commission would only open old wounds and renew conflicts.

Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Hasyim Muzadi told legislators during a hearing here on Wednesday that it would be better to bury the past and look toward the future.

According to Hasyim, the nation must be unified in declaring the 1965 abortive coup d'etat -- and the deaths that followed the incident -- a national tragedy.

"The government should then restore the civil rights of the victims," he said.

Hasyim said the Indonesian Military, Muslim groups, and the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) all had roles in the failed 1965 coup, which led to the deaths of thousands of suspected PKI members.

He did not explain what role the military, Muslim groups, and the PKI had played in the bloody incident.

"If the (truth and reconciliation) commission seeks the truth, then it will inevitably reopen old wounds. So, it must be made clear whether reconciliation is the aim or reopening past wounds," he said.

Speaking at the same hearing, Yahya Muhaimin from the Muhammadiyah said comparisons between Indonesia and South Africa were not useful as the conflicts here were of a different nature.

The conflicts in South Africa, he said, were driven by racial discrimination while the conflicts in Indonesia were caused by various factors, including ethnic, religious, and economic issues.

"Besides, it is hard to find a figure who has the capacity of Nelson Mandela here," he said.

Hussein Umar of the Indonesian Islamic Sermon Council (DDII), meanwhile, suggested that lawmakers delayed the discussion of the bill until information was disseminated to the public on the planned commission.

Although he fully supported efforts toward national reconciliation, whether this could be achieved through the truth and reconciliation commission was another matter, he added.

Hussein also warned legislators that the commission must not create more problems.

Many other groups have rejected the bill, or expressed their doubts over its effectiveness, but legislators say that controversies regarding the bill are to be expected.