Sat, 15 Jan 2000

Yusril travels to Netherlands to invite home coup exiles

JAKARTA (JP): In an action which would have been unthinkable in the last 30 years, Minister of Law and Legislation Yusril Ihza Mahendra left for the Netherlands Friday night to invite home Indonesians in self-imposed exile in Europe since the 1965 abortive coup.

Yusril told The Jakarta Post as he was about to board an Amsterdam-bound plane at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport that he would hold a meeting with the Indonesian exiles in the Dutch city on Saturday.

"I was assigned as special envoy by the President to explain the new stance of the government toward those who were allegedly involved in the 1965 incident," he said.

The New Order government of Soeharto adopted a hard-line stance against those allegedly involved in the 1965 abortive coup by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Soeharto came to power in the attempted coup's wake.

It even extended to relatives of people implicated in the coup attempt, who often faced restrictions in their daily lives.

Many Indonesians who were studying abroad at the time could not return home because of their perceived support for the PKI. Some were studying in then communist states after receiving scholarships from their governments.

Yusril estimated that about 600 Indonesians, mostly residing in the Netherlands, were victims of the past government's unyielding policy. Many have adopted new citizenship.

"That's why I need to discuss the matters with them personally and with the Dutch authorities," he added.

But he said the actual number of Indonesians forced into exile and their locations were unknown.

He said that even just a few days ago he received a letter from an Indonesian in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, about the matter.

The new government of Abdurrahman Wahid has attempted to effect reconciliation in the country, including from the painful past of the coup attempt.

Yusril is also due to visit the United States to meet with Secretary of State Madeleine Allbright in Washington on Jan. 24. (04)