31 October 2007
Indonesia has made the transition from dictatorship to democracy, but without justice for millions of victims of President Suharto’s tyranny. Peter Tatchell interviews Indonesian human rights campaigners, Carmel Budiardjo and Adriana Siti Adhiati.
President Suharto ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for 30 long, dark years, from 1967 to 1998. During this period, millions of Indonesians were massacred, jailed, tortured or forced to flee their homes to escape murderous rampages of the armed forces.
President Suharto’s bloody rule was backed by the West. The UK and US sold him the weapons that he used to repress his own people. We colluded with his human rights abuses.
In 1998, economic downturn and mass protests forced Suharto from office. Since then, Indonesia has embraced democracy, holding largely free and fair elections.
Democracy has not, however, bought justice for the millions of victims of Suharto’s tyranny. They have no redress. The government and military officials who authorised or committed murder and torture live openly and freely; never called to account.
Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian, for example, was responsible for many of the worst atrocities after Indonesia invaded and occupied East Timor. He was recently rewarded with the post of district military commander in the city of Jayapura, the capital of Indonesian-annexed West Papua.
During the period of Indonesian occupation of East Timor, nearly 200,000 people – around a third of the population – died. In West Papua, an estimated 100,000 people have been killed.
East Timor is now independent. But West Papua is a nation that still suffers Indonesian oppression and exploitation, with the collusion of western oil and mining companies. They are looting West Papua’s immense natural riches.
Suharto and his cronies embezzled billions of taxpayers’ money. Hardly any of it has been recovered; depriving the government of desperately needed funds for economic development and education and health facilities to uplift Indonesia’s impoverished people.
New democratic Indonesia has failed to bring Suharto to justice. Instead of being tried for crimes against humanity, he is allowed to live out his days in luxury, enjoying the fabulous wealth plundered by him and his family during the thirty years he terrorised the country.
Carmel Budiardjo is a former Indonesian political prisoner and the founder of TAPOL, the Indonesia human rights campaign.
Adriana Siti Adhiati works with Down to Earth, the International Campaign for Ecological Justice in Indonesia.
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