Wed, 25 Sep 2002

Munarman elected YLBHI top executive

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

After nine months without a permanent director, the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI) elected on Tuesday Munarman its top executive.

Munarman, who formerly headed the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), pledged to consolidate the foundation members as his first move.

Of 23 electors, who are members of the foundation's supervisory board, 17 voted for Munarman, who is the current YLBHI coordinator of civil and political division. Munarman beat colleague Daniel Panjaitan, the deputy director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute as the only other contender in the election.

Munarman and the foundation's board of executives will be sworn in on Oct. 2.

YLBHI co-founder and chairman of the supervisory board, Adnan Buyung Nasution, expressed hope that the new executives would improve the organization's achievement in promoting human rights and democracy.

Buyung said the foundation had run out steam in conducting its mission due to internal rifts and the large amount of non- governmental institutions with identical activities.

The board of trustees, now the supervisory board, dismissed the last director Bambang Widjojanto last December for his alleged indecent proposal to reform the foundation into a more populist association and to reduce the authority of the patrons sitting on the board of trustees.

Bambang's motion was sparked by a move of senior members who swapped positions in a bid to maintain their power in the name of "professionalism".

Adnan has been criticized for defending senior military officers implicated in gross human rights violations in East Timor in 1999.

At that time Adnan denied any bickering in the foundation and argued that the dismissal was aimed at giving opportunities for new faces since Bambang had reached the end of a five-year tenure.

Bambang's exit followed the resignation of vice chairman Munir.

A caretaker team, comprising Irianto Subiakto, Mappinawang and Haneda Srilastoto, was named to run the organization and to prepare for the election which was originally slated for July.

Such an abrupt move by the board of trustees sparked criticism from the members, with Munarman becoming the most outspoken critic, and it almost cost him his position on the executive board.

Munarman, who was once the director of the YLBHI office in Aceh, appeared confident during the public debates held earlier on Tuesday morning.

"To build democracy, we should seek out our foes, but make friends... The differences among us are part of our tradition. YLBHI will never be broken down because of differences," he said in the debate.