Wed, 14 Jun 2000

Truth commission's brief includes '65 killings

JAKARTA (JP): A draft law proposes that the planned commission for truth and reconciliation focus its tasks on settlement of gross human rights violations which occurred between 1965 and 1989, a member of the team drawing up the bill said on Tuesday.

Ifdhal Kasim from the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy, who represents the nongovernmental organizations in the team of drafters, said the limitation was a technical matter.

He said while human rights violations occurred in the lead up to the fall of the government of founding president Sukarno in 1965, it was more realistic for the commission to trace human rights violations that happened about 35 years ago, where witnesses, survivors and victims were still alive.

"The interval of time is not too long, so the commission can work on cases that occurred within the span of this period," he told journalists on the sidelines of a dialog with members of South Africa's truth commission here.

Ifdhal maintained that there had been no official explanation of the bloodshed that followed the 1965 abortive coup that was blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Nobody knows the exact number of people killed in the military-backed operation to root out suspected communists, but foreign reports put the toll at 500,000.

The descendants of PKI supporters have been forbidden to enter governmental institutions or the military, or to join political groupings and have been hampered in the obtaining of public facilities. Their identity cards had been stamped with a special mark revealing their political status until last year.

"The commission is tasked with unveiling the truth of the 1965 case and furthermore putting history back on track," he added.

According to the draft, the fifth since the drafting started in February, the commission is entitled to recommend that the President grant amnesty to human rights perpetrators, provided that they confess their guilt before the commission.

The commission will be selected by a special team in consultation with the House of Representatives.

Alex Boraine, visiting deputy chairman of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, warned that reconciliation will face resistance.

"You need reconciliation, and it needs commitment from the government, institutions, and society. It's painful, but you have to face up to the truth of the past because you can't build a new society on lies," the professor of law at New York University remarked.

"And by obtaining public acknowledgement of the past, you can avoid committing similar crimes." (bby)