jokowi vs 1965

By :Ika Krismantari


Source : The Jakarta Post,July 30 2016

Status: complicated. That is probably the best way to describe my relationship status with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

The verdict of the International People’s Tribunal (IPT), which found Indonesia guilty of crimes against humanity in relation to the systematic killings of hundreds of thousands of people in 1965 has not made things any better between us.

Well, dear President, this article is the culmination of my frustration and also a reminder of what you have done wrong.

Two years ago, you impressed me with your one-of-a-kind charm and promises.

Breaking into national politics wearing your innocent-guy persona with no military background or high-wired political connections, you portrayed yourself as a presidential candidate like no other.

Then, you lulled me with your big promises during your campaign. One was your intention to resolve past human rights abuses, which previous presidents failed to accomplish.

Once ruled by an authoritarian government, Indonesia has a long history tainted by gross human violations involving the military. Just to name a few, they include the May 1998 riots, the 1989 Talangsari incident and  the 1965 communist purge.

Resolving the 1965 tragedy is deemed important by many, as it is the key to ending decades-long impunity that has led to a series of subsequent human rights violations. Some have associated violence against Indonesians of Chinese descent in the 1998 Jakarta riots with the China-phobia preserved after 1965.

Allowing the 1965 case to go unresolved also means opening up to possibilities of further violence in the future.

That’s why, my dear President, your promise to resolve the 1965 case was warmly greeted by a nation that has morphed into a democracy. Even though, the pledge should not have come as a surprise to lure voters, given your non-military background.

But still I fell into your trap and voted for you in 2014, and I was not the only one. Another 70 million people also cast their votes for you, making you our president.

My hope abounded when you included your promises into one of your government’s agendas. Yet, two years on, I have not seen a single sign that you will resolve past atrocities. I guess you are busy with your other priorities.

Well, despite my disappointment, I tried to understand until the ruling from the IPT came out. You did not say a word about it. Yet you let your subordinates make statements that completely contradict your promise.

I hope that their remarks do not represent the government’s stance, because deep inside in me I still want to believe in you, the man who has made impossible things possible in Indonesian political history; the man that I have chosen to lead the country.

I believe it is still not too late for you to do something to meet your promises.

With the nation under the global spotlight following the IPT’s decision, it is a good opportunity for you to seize the moment.

You have now secured support from the international community to take action. The IPT has planned to bring the case to the upcoming UN Human Rights Council meeting. The ruling can’t be ignored with the world’s attention drawn to it. Thus, in this case, silence is not golden, dear President.

The verdict may not be binding, yet if you care about building a good image like your predecessors, you may want to consider the IPT’s recommendations to investigate the case and apologize to victims and their families.

On an additional note, this may be good for your future CV if you want to pursue an international career once your presidency comes to an end.

Apart from building your personal reputation, heeding the IPT’s recommendation will help the country restore its name on the global stage. A young democracy, Indonesia is eying global recognition. Imagine how the government’s inaction over the tragedy will dent our rise on the international stage.

You may have heard that the IPT has also exposed the complicity of the US, the UK and Australia, which had early knowledge of what the IPT described as a “genocide”.

The involvement of the superpower countries in the tragedy is another golden opportunity for Indonesia to make a mark in the international arena through an initiative to resolve gross human rights violations.

Indonesia can start by requesting those governments to open their secret files in relation to the 1965 bloodshed. The IPT’s verdict gives a developing nation justification to question the authority of superpowers and Indonesia should not waste this rare chance.

Yet, I also realize it is not easy to resolve the 1965 killings in the face of opposition from different parties.

The current legal system has also shown that the initiative to resolve the tragedy constitutes a mission impossible given the absence of political will from House of Representatives lawmakers and resistance from the military.

But whom do you want to please, dear President? Those politicians and generals? Or how about the 70 million people who voted for you and have faith in your promises?

If you are gunning for a second mandate, I think you had better start fulfilling your pledges — a promise, after all, is a promise. Don’t blow your chance again and again and make me, or us, finally fall out love with you.