Tue, 18 Mar 2003

Reconciliation bill held up in state secretary: Yusril

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

An expected truth and reconciliation commission that would deal with the country's past human rights abuses out of court will not be established in the near future, an official has announced.

Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said on Monday that the bill on a truth and reconciliation commission, which had supposedly reached the House of Representatives for deliberation, was stuck at the State Secretariat.

"I sent the bill six months ago. It was supposed to be deliberated by the House, but the State Secretary has not informed me if there is something wrong," he told reporters after a seminar on Transnational Justice, the Past Experiences of South Africa and Indonesia.

"Perhaps it has something to do with the several articles on compensation," Yusril said when asked about the reasons behind the bill's suspension.

He disclosed that some of the articles in the bill stipulate that the state has to compensate the victims of human rights violations in the past and that the perpetrators were to be granted amnesty.

"The State Secretary has to be wary if the government pays out compensation to millions of victims. But the draft does not specifically mention the amount of compensation as that is to be determined by the government," he said, adding that the government should have issued a special regulation about the compensation issue.

Yusril said that according to the bill, the establishment of the commission was mandatory in a bid to reconcile both sides in human rights cases, including the alleged mass killing during the 1965 coup by the banned Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

"We are talking about an out-of-court settlement in a bid to reveal the real history here, no matter how painful it is. We all have to be able to forgive, otherwise, we wouldn't be able to move into a better phase," he said.

The incident claimed millions of lives, including the supporters and those who opposed the PKI.

Indonesia started drafting the bill two years ago following the establishment of Law No. 26/1999 on human rights trials, which mandates the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission as an alternative to the court system.

Several experts have conducted comparative studies in several countries, including South Africa, in a bid to draft the bill.

South African Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Panuelle Mpapa Maduna shared his country's experiences with the seminar's participants, saying that the most important thing was learning how to assist the victims of human rights abuses.

"If we're talking about compensating the victims, money is not the matter. What is more important is how to assist them in rebuilding their lives, making a better life for them," he said, adding that his country was continuing its efforts for national reconciliation.

Maduna is known as the architect of the commission in South Africa, which managed to bring reconciliation to the country following the collapse of the Apartheid regime in 1992.