IBRAHIM ISA'S - News and Views
Sunday, October 24, 2010
-- Controversy on SUHARTO's Status
-- The Papua Torture*
Is Soeharto a hero?
A few weeks ago, controversy erupted in the media over the proposed
construction of an Islamic cultural center in New York close to the
former World Trade Center site.
Many people who had been injured, or who lost family and friends in the
9/11 attacks, complained that the Islamic Center would hurt their
feelings. Others claimed that the victims' hurt feelings warranted
blocking the center's construction on grounds of insensitivity.
There is though, a strong counterargument to that view. Since the people
proposing to build the center had nothing to do with the attacks, the
complaints of the 9/11 victims are unfair; they should deal rationally
with their emotions instead of trying to infringe upon the rights of
unrelated people wishing to build a religious center.
But what if there were a completely different proposal a proposal to
make the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks into national heroes?
Then the situation would be very different. The men being put forward as
heroes would be the same men who had willfully brought agony and
bereavement to thousands of people. In that case the feelings of the
victims should be paramount. It would be an abomination to glorify the
perpetrators, while trampling on the feelings of the victims.
And yet, moving to Indonesia, we find the government proposing to
venerate Soeharto without considering the millions of people who lost
relatives in his purges, the thousands who were unjustly imprisoned,
exiled or stigmatized for the best part of their lives, the thousands
more who suffered torture or abuse at the hands of his security forces
with no hope for justice, or even for recognition of their suffering.
Of course there are some people, including President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono, who prospered professionally or financially under Soeharto.
No doubt some were personally involved in torture or murder in the
regime's name, and hope glamorization of Soeharto will attenuate their
own feelings of guilt and fears of prosecution. Perhaps others see
acclamation of Soeharto as a vindication of their authoritarian ideology
or as a reaffirmation of a distorted view of history.
Many were simply brought up to revere Soeharto and have never matured
enough to see beyond the smiling photograph on the wall and the
manicured serenity of New Order-controlled media reports.
But viewed comprehensively, the government's enthusiasm in elevating
Soeharto is another symptom of its lost direction.
Instead of uplifting the downtrodden of Soeharto's rule, it tramples on
their feelings by lauding him as a hero, just as today it tramples on
the freedom of minorities through surrogate bands of thugs, who it
treats as vital enforcers of stability and propriety.
Instead of fighting tirelessly to rectify Soeharto's legacy --- the
venal court system, the corrupt institutions, the arrogant politicians
and the greedy bureaucracy --- it evades its responsibilities by
idolizing the very man who created the mess in the first place!
Instead of learning from history, it warps history by perpetuating a
mythical view that turns tyrants into heroes, injustice into order and
fear into peace.
This nostalgia for the past era of impunity, illusion and exploitation
should end. Rather, Indonesia should look to the future with humanity,
determination, realism and justice.
Soeharto to get national hero status?'*
Oct. 17, Online: The government has proposed late former president
Soeharto and nine other deceased figures get national hero status,
Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam said in Jakarta on Sunday.
Dipo said the proposal, made by the Social Services Ministry, was being
assessed by the Honor and Service Council before President Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono decides.
"It's not true that Pak Harto will get national hero status. There are
nine others proposed by the Social Services Ministry," Dipo, who is a
former student activist from the 1970s, said as quoted by kompas.com.
Dipo said the nine other figures include noted ulema and former
president Abdurrahman Wahid, and former Jakarta governors Ali Sadikin
and J. Leimena. Soeharto and nine other figures are part of 18
previously proposed by the Social Services Ministry, he said.
"Let's think positively. The government will process them in line with
proposals from the public by considering their lifetime contributions to
the country," he added./
Soeharto's hero status remains unclear
Hans David Tampubolon, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 10/18/2010
The government says that it has yet to decide whether or not former
president Soeharto would be given a national hero status.
Cabinet secretary Dipo Alam told reporters at the People's Consultative
Assembly (MPR) in Jakarta on Monday that the government had received at
least 10 names to be proposed as national heroes including former
Jakarta governor Ali Sadikin and Soeharto.
An honorary board led by Political, Legal, and Security Affairs
Minister Djoko Suyanto will make a decision about the issue," Dipo said.
The candidacy of Soeharto for a national hero status has sparked
controversies due to his dictatorship regime.
During the regime, the country saw heavy oppressions towards the freedom
of speech and massive violations of human rights.
The week in review: The Papua torture video
The Jakarta Post | Sun, 10/24/2010 - Editorial
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a brave move on Friday, ordering
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko
Suyanto to acknowledge the authenticity of a video that depicts members
of the Indonesian Military (TNI) torturing indigenous Papuans.
The Asian Human Rights Commission had posted the video on YouTube
(although it was later removed). With the video online for the whole
world to see, the President must have realized this time that the old
defensive and denial tactics would not work.
While we salute the President's move, we hope his generals will follow
up on his order for a thorough investigation. The President's blunt
confession will mean nothing if he does not take harsh actions against
the soldiers and their commanders. The first thing he must do is
establish an independent fact-finding commission led by the National
Commission on Human Rights.
However, no matter how accurate this commission's findings are, they
will be useless if the President does not translate the findings into
concrete action. Only a transparent and fair court will help regain
Another step Yudhoyono must take is to open Papuan territory to
international access. Until now foreign journalists and international
workers have been forbidden from entering Papua. Our experiences in
Timor Leste and Aceh should have taught us that the closure of conflict
areas only worsens human rights abuses, with the lack of close supervision.
Papuans have the constitutional right to be treated as first-class
citizens of Indonesia. Many Papuans feel they are being discriminated
against by their fellow citizens and even the state. It will not be
surprising if one day they turn around and say "Enough is enough! We
want to get out of this hell!"
THE RUPIAH STRENGTHENED
On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that the rupiah had strengthened,
nearing a three-year high, as speculators expected higher yields in
Indonesia. According to the news agency, the rupiah had advanced 5.2
percent this year, as overseas investors pumped US$2.2 billion into
At this rate, Bank Indonesia may be forced to intervene in the market by
The threat of a currency war is very real. US Treasury Secretary Timothy
F. Geithner has repeatedly urged China to make its currency, the
renminbi, more realistic according to the real market value, and
demanded an appreciation of the currency. But Beijing will not likely
bow to any pressure as China's growth continues, and there is no sign of
its economy overheating. Japan, meanwhile, accused South Korea of
intentionally controlling the won. The Australian dollar also continues
strengthen, as does the Singapore dollar.
Indonesian officials and economists played down the danger of rupiah
fluctuations, arguing that Indonesia's fundamentals were very strong.
This was markedly different to the situation during the 1997-98 Asian
financial crisis, when the rupiah fluctuated severely. As a result, Bank
Indonesia increased interest rates to 70 percent in 1998.
But please do not forget that just before the crisis hit Indonesia in
July 1997, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF),
along with other international financial institutions, praised
Indonesia's perfect fundamentals.
This time we hope that such blunders in assessing our economy will not
happen again. We need to remember that we have had a consumer-driven
economy over the last few years, as the return of foreign direct
investment has remained slow
BARACK OBAMA TO VISIT INDONESIA NEXT MONTH*
On Friday, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa announced the planned visit
of US President Barack Obama next month, on the sidelines of his
scheduled trip to attend the G20 summit in South Korea and the
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Yokohama, Japan. But
Obama has postponed visiting Indonesia (the country where he spent
several years of his childhood in the 1960s) twice this year already, so
Indonesians will probably be less enthusiastic about his visit this
time. Obama needs to understand that he has disappointed many
Indonesians who feel that this country is no longer part of his agenda.
President Yudhoyono will meet Obama at the two summits. Perhaps many
Indonesians do not realize that their country is a member of the
prestigious new club: G20. But many Indonesians also do not see the
relevance of the G20 in their daily life.
Apart from the two summits, Yudhoyono also must attend the ASEAN Summit
next week in Hanoi, Vietnam. But is ASEAN more meaningful to ordinary
Indonesians than the G20 and APEC?
--- Kornelius Purba