SBY too busy to talk rights

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has turned down a proposal to meet with the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to discuss the handling of cases relating to enforced disappearances. In an official letter made available on Wednesday, State Secretary Sudi Silalahi said the President thanked the commission for its invitation, citing how much he appreciated its performance in defending human rights, but declined a meeting due to his busy schedule. “The President appreciates your proposal very much, as well as appreciating Komnas HAM’s efforts to protect and fulfill human rights in Indonesia. However, with his tight agenda of state events, the President said he cannot meet this request,” said the letter, which was signed by Sudi on March 26 with a copy to Yudhoyono. Komnas HAM chairman Hafid Abbas said on Wednesday he was disappointed with the President’s refusal. He said as the President’s tenure was approaching its conclusion, it was more and more difficult for members of the commission to meet with him. Hafid added that by refusing a meeting, Yudhoyono had tarnished his reputation further, as a President who did very little to protect human rights. “Perhaps he has other priorities,” he said. Komnas HAM sent a letter to Yudhoyono on Feb. 24 asking for a meeting to discuss what the government had done to follow up on the House of Representatives’ 2009 recommendation on the disappearances of human rights and pro-democracy activists between 1997 and 1998. In its recommendation, the House also urged the President to order the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) to investigate the case, determine the whereabouts of 13 individuals declared missing by Komnas HAM, pay compensation to their families and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Rights activists suspect Yudhoyono has dragged his feet on resolving such cases as he was a member of the Officers Honorary Council (DKP), which was tasked with investigating the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) members, including chief patron of the Gerindra Party, Prabowo Subianto, who were accused of orchestrating the kidnappings. Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said he had no knowledge of Sudi’s letter and added that, in general, Yudhoyono supported efforts to uncover past rights abuses. At least 13 people were abducted in 1997-1998 in the twilight of the New Order regime, including poet Wiji Thukul and activists of the People’s Democratic Party (PRD): Suyat, Herman Hendrawan, Petrus Bima Anugerah, M. Yusuf, Ucok Munandar Siahaan, Yadin Muhidin and Hendra Hambali. Some of those kidnapped during the period were released from captivity shortly before the resignation of Soeharto. These include then chairman of the PRD, Budiman Sudjatmiko, now a lawmaker from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), student activist Andi Arief, now a special staffer for Yudhoyono, and lawyer Desmond Mahesa, now a politician with Prabowo’s Gerindra. Discussions over the fate of the missing activists came to the fore again after former Prabowo aide Maj. Gen. (ret) Kivlan Zen, now a politician with the United Development Party (PPP), claimed he had key information regarding the disappearance of the activists. “All of those people are dead, I know their whereabouts, I know who executed them and where their graves are,” Kivlan said on a talk show broadcast by the news channel TVOne last week. On Wednesday, Komnas HAM said it would question Kivlan to obtain more details about his claim. “Komnas HAM will question Pak Kivlan soon, as he has given us new information regarding the case,” Komnas HAM commissioner Roichatul Aswidah said. Families of the disappeared demanded that Komnas HAM question Prabowo and Kivlan. (idb)