[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
THE NATION: Habibie's amnesty offer
- Subject: THE NATION: Habibie's amnesty offer
- From: suriya@xxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 25 May 1998 19:21:00
Habibie's amnesty offer
JAKARTA -- Two of Indonesia's most
internationally recognised political
prisoners rebuffed an offer of amnesty from
President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie's
government, which Monday also announced
plans for massive political reform and early
Imprisoned legislator Sri Bintang
Pamungkas and union leader Muchtar
Pakpahan said, from inside the Cipinang
prison in east Jakarta Monday, that they
would take the amnesty offer only if other
political prisoners were released as well.
The two made their statements just minutes
after the Justice Minister Muladi had
announced on television that the
government was to release all political
prisoners with ''some legal considerations
However, their planned release drew a
protest, held by more than 1,000
Indonesians, in front of the notorious prison.
They obviously were waiting to welcome all
political prisoners as they had been
However, they began to boo government
officials and prison guards when they
learned about the release of just two
Around 200 students and relatives unfurled
protest banners asking the government to
release all the political prisoners, which
include East Timor resistance leader
Xanana Gusmao. ''Free Xanana Gusmao,''
read one banner.
Muladi, who had attended a Cabinet
meeting earlier Monday, had mentioned the
names of Pamungkas and Pakpahan,
saying that the Cabinet had agreed to
release them but not the ones whose cases
''involved the propagation of communism,
Marxism or Leninism, as well as those held
for crimes and acts against pancasila and
the 1945 constitution''.
Pancasila (''the five pillars'') is Indonesia's
state ideology, whose components are trust
in God, humanity, national unity, democracy
and social justice.
It was obviously a reference to communist
leaders jailed in the late 1960s as well as
younger student activists of the left-leaning
People's Democratic Party (PRD) and
separatist fighters for East Timor.
Pakpahan, chairman of the unrecognised
Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union, had
been charged with inciting the 1994 riots in
the city of Medan in northern Sumatra, but
his case has never been brought to trial.
The union leader, who has had to be
treated for respiratory problems since
March last year, was also charged with
subversive activities in 1996 due to the
publication of his book on trade unionism
and a speech to a Portuguese university.
Pamungkas, formerly a legislator of the
United Development Party, had been
charged with defaming former president
Suharto and organising a protest against
him in Dresden, Germany in 1995.
The unexpected refusals from Pamungkas
and Pakpahan prompted Muladi to
negotiate with them and their lawyers. It is
still not clear if the two prisoners will accept
Muladi said only that Cipinang prison
officials had released them from their cells
though the two prisoners, who met their
wives and relatives, had refused to leave
An aide to Pakpahan Rekson Silaban said
the two had actually agreed to leave the
prison if Muladi gave them a time frame for
the release of the other prisoners but as he
had refused to give them an answer they
had remained in the prison.
Muladi reportedly said all the political
prisoners, including the East Timor
freedom fighters, would be pardoned after
the government had set criteria, adding that
the amnesty was part of the government's
efforts to promote human rights and meet
international criteria on political freedom.
According to the Indonesian Legal Aid
Foundation, there are more than 200
political prisoners, ranging from student
leaders like Budiman Sujatmiko and
Muslim activists to elderly communist
cadres, some of whom have been held for
more than 25 years.
The 36-member Cabinet unanimously
approved plans to breathe life into
Indonesia's restrictive political system.
''The principle is elections as soon as
possible after we prepare the laws,'' State
Secretary and chief government
spokesman Akbar Tandjung said after the
However, legal experts say the changes
and preparations for elections will take time
and polls are not likely to be held before
With new elections a new session of the
People's Consultative Assembly (MPR),
which meets once in five years after
parliamentary elections, is possible.
The 1,000-member MPR includes 500 MPs
as well as military and civilian officials
appointed by the president.
At present only three political parties are
allowed to contest polls, and campaigning
is restricted to a few weeks before
''The president has discussed making
political activity more free ... including
allowing anyone in society to form political
parties and organisations,'' Tandjung said.
Under the current laws general elections
are held every five years, and the next one
is not due until 2002. Suharto's Golkar party
has won every election with massive
margins since the former army general took
power in 1965.
BY ANDREAS HARSONO