February 9, 2002
The respected human rights group Kontras (the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence) has raised the heat on retired Lt. Gen. A.M.Hendropriyono, demanding his removal from his position as head of the National Intelligence Body (BIN).
A statement from Kontras on Thursday (7/2/02), the anniversary of the 1989 case, maintained pressure on the retired general over his role in the Talangsari incident.
A group of NGOs has already lodged a complaint with the Jakarta
Administrative Court arguing that the general's appointment to the
intelligence seat breached government regulations on human rights.
Hendropriyono was commander of the Garuda Hitam detachment that razed a Muslim sect's base in the Lampung village. The Kontras statement marked the anniversary of the incident.
The Talangsari incident continues to provide controversy. Last September, a group of the former Talangsari families issued a statement through the National Resolution Movement (GIN - Gerakan Islah Nasional) that the case could now be closed.
Darsono, one supporter of the reconciliation process established by GIN, is said by other Talangsari victims to have been paid to forget what happened in At the September meeting at the Lampung office of the National Human Rights Commission, Darsono rejected any attempts to settle claims arising from themilitary action through the courts.
Both Kontras and Committee for Solidarity with the People of Lampung (Smalam) have both been trying to keep the case alive in the courts but say their efforts have been blocked by Hendropriyono loyalists.
The human rights groups say a special inquiry is required to find out exactly what happened at Talangsari, where nearly 250 members of the Warsidi sect are believed to have been gunned down by troops in what was one of the most serious human rights violations of the Suharto era.
Kontras coordinator for the case, Ahmad Hambali, says the reconciliation process pursued by GIN merely represents manipulation on the part of the Hendropriyono camp.
He says those who support the GIN process are those living in the community at the time but who did not lose members of their close family. "The Talangsari case represents a major human rights violation and the nation
needs to settle this. It is not often just to seek a peaceful resolution," says Hambali.
Soon after the incident took place, then commander of the Sriwijaya Command Maj. Gen. Sunardi said 31 people had died. Other sources claimed that 246 people had died, including 127 women and children.
The end of the Suharto era in 1998 allowed the Talangsari case to be raised again, along with other major human rights abuses such as the 1984 Tanjung Priok case, where the reconciliation process has also been used to protect the commander there, former Vice President Try Sutrisno. Similar objections from some victims were raised at Tanjung Priok as at Lampung, arguing that not all the victims were prepared to settle the case.
The Warsidi attracted the attention of the government because of its demand for an Islamic national state. Under Suharto's leadership, radical Islam was kept firmly in its place and the Talangsari incident was merely one of the most dramatic actions aimed at stamping out such radicalism.
Many members of the community were jailed after the crackdown, and those that have been released from jail have found themselves "looked after" by Hendropriyono supporters in order to reduce the level of complaints.
Hendropriyono himself is on record as saying that the court cases that jailed the Warsidi activists were officially the end of the case. "The courts made their judgements and if a new government wants to review and change these judgements, we have to ask what sort of nation we are in," he is reported as saying.
Sources close to the retired lieutenant general say he realizes he cannot expect the case to disappear just like that.
Fikri Yasin, coordinator of Smalam's working group, says the use of violence in the name of national stability cannot be justified. "We do not consider that this case is closed," he said after the September meeting in Bandar Lampung.
Smalam continues to maintain that the death toll from the attack by four platoons of Hendropriyono's troops stands at 246, 137 of them women.
Sources in Lampung state that efforts continue to try to erase the memories of the Talangsari incident by offering them new and better lives. A number of former detainees have happily accepted the deals offered them.
The process of re-investigating the case commenced in June 1998 with a meeting between former detainees and Hendropriyono in Jakarta in which the former commander provided guarantees of the welfare of families. He also arranged the early release of 15 still in jail on charges related to the sect's demand for an Islamic state by way of President Instruction No. 101/G/1998.
A second presidential instruction, No. 203/1998, allowed for 'rehabilitation' efforts on the behalf of another 20 former detainees. They were set up in shrimp farming enterprises, using 100 hectares of land provided by Hendropriyono.
Some of the victims acknowledge that they have made 180 degree turns in their attitudes. One former detainee, Fauzi Isnan, says everybody needs to realize that the former relationship between the military and Islam involved many mistakes.
"I still believe the best way out is for us to put aside our suspicion and dislike. Let's try to see this case in the context of national
The problem for Hendropriyono is that there are still many victims of the attack who are not prepared to accept this sort of reconciliation.
"There are some 50 people who refuse to be co-opted or seduced by Hendropriyono. We will continue to support their cause," says Smalam's Fikri Yasin.