Mon, 26 Jun 2000

Observers condemn Friday's attack on Komnas HAM

JAKARTA (JP): Political observers Hermawan Sulistyo and Johannes Kristiadi have condemned Friday's violent attack on the headquarters of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) by members of the Front for Defenders of Islam (FPI).

Hermawan and Kristiadi said on Saturday that the incident should be deeply deplored and FPI members have no legal rights at all to carry out such an act of vandalism.

The condemnation, however, failed to soften FPI's stand. Coordinator of the front, Jafar Sidiq, even threatened to carry out such an attack again should Komnas HAM upset them.

"We'll take responsibility for the attack. Muslims here are no longer patient. If you cross us again, we will take action," Jafar told The Jakarta Post on Saturday over the phone.

According to Hermawan, the attack, staged by some 300 FPI members on Komnas HAM headquarters on Jl. Latuharhari in Central Jakarta, was not only against Indonesian law, but also against Islamic laws.

"I am a Muslim. My religion has never taught me to vandalize institutions and hurt people," the political observer from National Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said.

He said that it's now time for police to play an active role in securing the capital from the threat of violent acts by communities who seem to be immune to law.

"Friday's attack was no mob attack. The organizations involved in the attack made their identities clear enough," he said.

"The police know who founded these organizations, including FPI, and who funds these organizations. Police therefore should take action against those people," Hermawan said.

He suggested that if police could not provide the institution with protection, President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid should do so by deploying Banser troops of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) at Komnas HAM headquarters.

Gus Dur once chaired the strong Muslim organization.

Kristiadi proposed a slightly different idea to help lower the tension by suggesting a dialog between FPI executives and Komnas HAM members.

"It would be good if FPI and Komnas HAM engaged in a dialog to ease the tensions between them," he said.

According to Kristiadi, the dispute should be settled in a peaceful way without having to deploy, for example, the Banser troops to the commission headquarters.

"However weak the Indonesian law is, the general public must leave the issue of security to law enforcers. It is the job of the police to protect us. That is what the police are for," he said.

Friday's assault was in protest over a report by the commission's investigation team into the alleged mass killing and burials in the 1984 Tanjung Priok shootings in North Jakarta.

Mostly clad in white Muslim clothes with FPI emblems and green scarfs, the angry protesters arrived at the Komnas HAM headquarters at 2 p.m. in six trucks, scores of motorcycles and a pickup truck.

Armed with stones and one-meter-long rattan sticks, some of the more emotional protesters shattered windows at both the commission building and a security post in front of the headquarters amidst efforts by their other colleagues to calm them down.

The protesters demanded that the commission be abolished, saying it had failed to provide a fair report on human rights abuses in the Tanjung Priok case.

Protest coordinator M. Alwi Usman called the investigation team's report discriminative.

"The report failed to mention the shooters. Ironically, the commission met with some high-ranking military officers one day before it presented the report to the House of Representatives on Friday last week," he said.

The bloody Tanjung Priok shootings claimed the lives of 33 civilians, with as many as 24 people killed by security officers. The remaining nine -- all family members of Tan Kioe Liem -- died at the hands of the angry masses.

Controversial cases

Jafar said on Saturday that FPI and other Muslim organizations were not only sick of the way Komnas HAM had handled the Tanjung Priok case, but other controversial cases as well in the country.

"We are just sick of it. Komnas HAM declared members of the prointegration movement in East Timor as anarchists. A lot of Komnas HAM's actions prove that it has sold out on the unity of the country," Jafar said.

Jafar added that the commission had brought the attack on itself by "acting partially against Muslims."

"Komnas HAM is welcome to use the help of the police and the law," he said.

Separately, Komnas HAM member Asmara Nababan told the Post on Saturday that he also condemned the attack and was disappointed that the police deployed on the street failed to stop the violent protesters.

He added that representatives of Komnas HAM had once met with National Police deputy chief Maj. Gen. Bimantoro to ask for protection.

"He promised us protection. But during the attack, the police could not even afford to give Komnas HAM minimum protection," Asmara said.

"We are never closed to protests and always welcome those who want to express their concerns to Komnas HAM. We welcome dialog, but not vandalism," Asmara said.

"When we try to investigate any case, we always try to remain as objective as possible. We are open to criticism. Where is the need to attack a legal institution?" (ylt)