Sunday, May 01, 2005

Indonesia roots for SBY ... and justice


TODAY
February 23, 2005

By Thang D Nguyen

JAKARTA — As 2004 drew to a close, Western intelligence forces issued a warning of a potential terrorist attack on a Hilton hotel in Indonesia over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Fortunately, no attack took place. Unfortunately, however, a killing took place at the Jakarta Hotel Hilton on New Year's Eve.

A bartender at Hilton's Fluid Club, Mr Yohanes Haerudy Natong, popularly known as Rudy, was allegedly shot dead by tycoon Adiguna Sutowo, after the bartender told him that his female companion's credit card had been rejected.

The police arrested Adiguna after the shooting and he is now behind bars as the investigation goes on.

Rudy's death went almost unnoticed, overshadowed by the news of the tsunami that hit Indonesia and several other Asian countries on Boxing Day.

It is also likely that the killing of Rudy got scant attention in the Indonesian media because the suspect is a member of Jakarta's elite.

Adiguna is the brother of Mr Pontjo Sutowo, the owner of the Jakarta Hilton, and the son of the late Ibnu Sutowo, a former president of the state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina.

The Indonesian media is wary of reporting on prominent personalities as it has got its hands burnt following its zealous reporting of scandals by Indonesia's elite.

In one major case last year, Mr Bambang Harymurti, the chief editor of the weekly news magazine Tempo, was found guilty of libelling tycoon Tommy Winata, one of Indonesia's most powerful businessmen.

Violence serves not only the Indonesian business world. In fact, the culture of violence in Indonesia could be said to have begun with top members of the Indonesian military (TNI), some of whom are known have close links with the country's political elite.

The relationship began in the Suharto era. The TNI served him well as a handy tool to silence the Indonesian media, non-government organisations and student activists.

The TNI has also been accused of atrocities and human rights violations in the pre-independent East Timor and other parts of Indonesia.

Today, violence is still very much a part of TNI culture.

A case in point is the recent beating up of anti-graft activist Farid Faqih by Indonesian soldiers in Banda Aceh, the area worst hit by the tsunami.

The soldiers alleged that Mr Farid, who is the coordinator of the Government Watch, had stolen two truckloads of aid supplies donated by the military wives' association, Dharma Pertiwi.

Did Mr Farid deserve the beating?

No!

Whatever the allegations, Mr Farid should have been handed over to the Indonesian police and investigated.

It may well turn out that Mr Farid took the aid supplies to distribute to the tsunami victims. The question being asked by the man the street is: Did he get beaten up because he is an anti-corruption activist?

Likewise, bartender Rudy did not deserve to die because his customer's credit card was not cleared.

He was just doing his job. He did not insult tycoon Adiguna by telling him that his companion's credit card had been rejected. He was merely stating a fact.

Sadly, Rudy died just a few weeks before his wedding. A 25-year-old college student, he was working as a bartender to save up for what would have been the happiest day of his life.

His fiancé, family and friends can only hope that justice will be done.

And what about the death of human rights activist Munir, who was poisoned with arsenic on Sept 7 last year on a flight to the Netherlands.

Five months have gone by since President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered an investigation but to date no one has been charged.

President Yudhoyono, who was in Singapore recently, spoke at a key forum of his resolve to improve the living standards of ordinary Indonesians.

"What I promised the Indonesian voters was quite simple: To do my best to make Indonesia more democratic, more peaceful, more just, more prosperous. And I intend to keep that promise," he said.

Indonesians want him to succeed — and also ensure that justice is served in the cases of Munir, Rudy, and Farid.

The writer is a Jakarta-based columnist. He has published several books on Indonesia, including "The Indonesian Dream: Unity, Diversity, and Democracy in Times of Distrust" (Marshall Cavendish Academic, 2004).

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