Sun, 11 May 2003

Parents stand tall in fight for justice for Black Friday victims

Though the anguish remains, the parents of slain Atma Jaya University student Bernardinus Realino Norma Irawan are standing up and fighting for justice. Though that wasn't always the case.

Sumarsih and Arief Priyadi still bare the scars of losing their beloved son, then 20, when he joined a rally at his campus in Central Jakarta on Nov. 13, 1998.

The violent rally and the killing of 12 students from a number of universities in Jakarta at the hands of the Indonesian Military (TNI) is now known as Black Friday.

Many people only recall the killings of four Trisakti University students in May 1998, which led to increased protests and violence throughout Indonesia. Few remember the killings at Atma Jaya University.

Nobody has been charged in relation to the barbaric shootings.

For years, Sumarsih, 51, avoided newspapers and television to shelter herself from developments in the killings or the reform movement.

Most of her spare time now is divided between church and activities for an association vigorously campaigning to bring the perpetrators of all violence in 1998 to trial.

"We're consistent with our demands, bring the perpetrators of the state violence to court," she said.

"Bringing them to trial will not bring my son back but it will, at least, prevent the violence from repeating itself."

The couple and daughter Irna never thought Wawan, as he was affectionately known, would die in such a callous way at the hands of unknown people.

"He was shot as he attempted to save his friend who had been beaten by military personnel," Sumarsih said.

The family rejected token monetary support from the Ministry of Social Affairs, asking it be donated to soldiers at Jakarta Military Command.

Sumarsih, who works at the office of the Golkar faction at the House of Representatives, said her strength to stand up returned after a meeting between relatives of the Black Friday victims and House members on July 9.

She lost her temper and threw a rotten egg at one of the legislators.

"We met the legislators after a demonstration at the House. The legislator, I don't remember who he was, belittled the incident, saying the shooting was just a minor crime," she recalled.

It seems to be a weary and long road for both Sumarsih and Arief, an employee with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in their fight for justice but they aware of the challenges.

"We're taking the risks, our time and energy for this struggle. We know that it's not easy," she said.

--Emmy Fitri