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Suharto era continues to cloud Indonesia's political life JAKARTA - A.M. Fatwa, the deputy speaker of Indonesia's parliament, has cause to be angry. In 1984, after protesting against the massacre by soldiers of Islamic activists near Jakarta's port of Tanjung Priok, he was arrested, tortured and then spent nine years in prison, five years under house arrest and wrote 13 books highlighting the abuses of the 32-year rule of the former president Suharto.
There are times now when Mr Fatwa encounters his former torturers at meetings and parties. None has been punished. Some have apologised privately. Many retain senior roles in the Indonesian military and elsewhere. But Mr Fatwa is anything but angry. In an Indonesia where many citizens feel the "Reformasi" promises that came with Mr Suharto's toppling in 1998 have fallen well short, he has come to accept what he views as political reality.
"Some of them are still very powerful," he says of his one-time torturers. "In political life, I still have good contact with these people." Five years after Mr Suharto's exit, a now raucously democratic Indonesia has gone some way to redressing his New Order's wrongs. Last week, for example, the head of the country's Kopassus special forces went on trial for allegedly giving the order that led to the Tanjung Priok massacre.
However, activists, diplomats, historians and even institutions such as the World Bank increasingly point to what they see as Indonesia's reluctance to deal with the abuses of the Suharto regime. Many believe this is contributing to the reascendance of an unreformed military with a habit of human rights abuse as well as a broader culture of impunity that interferes with still badly needed economic and political reforms. Adnan Buyung Nasution, a prominent defence lawyer, says: "Those who took part in the oppressive system of the past have not been punished. Because of that they feel they can do what they did before once again."
In a report on Indonesia's endemic corruption published last week, the World Bank said Mr Suharto's family and others connected to him continue to "flourish" from graft. Mr Suharto's former political party, Golkar, is expected by many to win parliamentary elections next year. Its presidential candidates include Wiranto, a former general indicted by United Nations prosecutors for human rights abuses in East Timor who retains strong ties to Mr Suharto, as well as Prabowo Subianto, a one-time general and Mr Suharto's estranged former son-in-law.
In Aceh, the restive province in northern Sumatra where martial law has been in place since May, human rights activists and other observers believe hundreds of civilians have been killed since the relaunch of military operations. Leading the fight against Acehnese separatists, according to a Human Rights Watch report released this month, are six senior officers born out of the Suharto regime with questionable rights records.
Critics argue the culture of impunity springs largely from the reluctance of President Megawati Sukarnoputri's government to tackle a powerful elite that became entrenched under Mr Suharto. Todung Mulya Lubis, a prominent human rights lawyer, says many have argued for forgetting the past and starting "anew" since Mr Suharto's fall.
"This elite community is made up of the old elite," he says. "There's no cut-off between the New Order [of Mr Suharto] and the Reformasi Order. The elite is pretty much the same." There are some moves under way to address the past and sensitive issues such as the 1965 anti-communist bloodletting that led to the death of up to a million, the rise of Mr Suharto and continuing discrimination against the relatives of suspected communists.
A panel of historians is reviewing the official version of 1965's events. That official version says a foiled communist coup led to Mr Suharto's eventual - and heroic - seizure of power. Moves are also afoot in parliament to create a reconciliation commission that would address the events of 1965 as well as Suharto regime abuses and even, potentially, the events surrounding the strongman's fall in 1998.
But scepticism and questions abound. Mr Fatwa, the legislator who pushed hardest for the Tanjung Priok trials, is cautious. The fall of Suharto was more "evolution" than "revolution", he says. "It's true. There has not been much change in Indonesia. Many Suharto people still exist."



Posted in Human rights @ 27 October 2003 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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