Missing, Never to Return

Tempo Magazine
No. 23/VIII
February 05-11, 2008

Cover Story

The families of activists abducted during the New Order era continue to demand that the former rulers be brought to court.

TRY Suharto….hang Suharto…take him to court,” shouted activists and members of the Indonesian Association of Missing Persons (Ikohi), dragging an effigy of former President Suharto in an iron cage. They walked 2 kilometers from the National Monument to the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) office in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

Even though Suharto was no longer in power for years, the families of the kidnap victims continued to demand that he be held accountable for his actions. They are the parents and families of abducted people whose fates remain unknown. According to Ikohi leader, Mugiyanto, they believe that Suharto was aware of how dissenters were eliminated.

“In an interview with Panjimas magazine, former Kostrad (Army Strategic Reserve Command) Commander Prabowo Subianto claimed he was given a list of the names of 28 activists that he had to monitor. Suharto also gave the list to other military officials. Those people on the list are still missing,” said Mugiyanto.

According to Mugiyanto, there were three distinct periods when activists and dissenters went missing during Suharto’s rule. The first period was when the 1997 General Elections had to be ‘secured.’ At that time, the PDI and PPP coalition, calling themselves the “Mega Star”, was getting stronger. During this period, the targets were supporters or people close to the two political parties opposing Golkar, Suharto’s political vehicle. The victims then were Yani Afri and Soni, activists of the PDI, and Dedi Hamdun and Noval Alkatiri of the PPP.

The second period was just before the MPR general session. Pius Lustrilanang, Desmond Junaidi Mahesa, Haryanto Taslam, and activists of the People’s Democratic Party (PRD) such as Nezar Patria, Rahardjo Waluyo Jati, Andi Arif, Feisol Reza, Wiji Tukul and Mugiyanto himself, were victims of “forcible elimination” attempts.

These nine were later set free, but not before they were terrorized and tortured. “I was held for three days, given electric shocks, tortured, then taken to the police station for three months detention,” said Mugiyanto, 32. Mugi was then a student at Gadjah Mada University’s Department of English Literature in Yogyakarta.

Rahardjo Waluyo Jati went through a similar experience. “For the first three days during the kidnapping I was handcuffed, my legs were tied, given electric shocks and beaten. I was even stripped naked and placed on a block of ice,” he said, when testifying to Komnas HAM. Jati was held from March 12 to April 28, 1998. After three days, Jati was moved to a dungeon where he met Pius Lustrilanang, an activist from Bandung. According to Pius, Room 5 was once inhabited by Soni and Yani Afri, supporters of the pro-Megawati PDI, Dedi Hamdun (of the PPP) and Lukas, a university lecturer from East Timor. In the dungeon, Jati was visited by two persons. “Maybe the bosses of the kidnappers. They smelt of expensive perfume. The two were accompanied by five others. All of them wore masks,” he recounted.

In the third period, people went missing following the May 1998 riots. “They were the eyewitnesses who saw a coordinated group of people torching the markets or malls when many looters were still inside,” said Mugi. Not all the victims of kidnappings were political activists. Some were ordinary street singers and office employees, among whom were Ucok Munandar, Yadi and Abdul Nasser. “Their whereabouts remain unknown but some people saw them being forcibly taken away,” he said.

According to Mugi, Ikohi has called for an ad hoc Komnas HAM team to find out what Suharto’s role was during the 1997-1998 period when people went missing. This team can begin by summoning TNI (Indonesian Military) and police elements suspected of being involved in the abductions. “Komnas HAM had made such a promise. We also appeal to all Indonesians who respect justice not to pardon Suharto before there is an honest and fair trial,” said Mugi, before the former President passed away.