Criminals OK, Ex-Commies No Way

Horse trading between PDI-P and Golkar has sacrificed the basic human rights of former political detainees from the Communist Party of Indonesia.

HOW lucky are corrupt people in this country. Although convicted by a court of justice, they retain their right to be nominated for membership of legislative bodies in the 2004 General Election. When you are found guilty by a district court, and even when your sentence is later upheld by a high court, be sure to promptly appeal to the Supreme Court.

As long as no verdict of permanent validity has been handed down, you are entitled to stay on stage and talk your head off. Want to be Speaker of the House of Representatives again? Please, feel free to do so. And fellow criminals of the same genre (robbers, rapists, narcotics dealers, murderers)--provided your sentences have as yet no permanent legal validity--please make your way to Senayan.

"If one's status is still that of defendant and one's conviction has no permanent legal validity yet, one may be put forward as a candidate," says Rully Chairul Anwar, a member of Golkar's Special Committee on Law on General Elections. If it were otherwise, his big boss, Akbar Tandjung, could get tripped. Isn't it a fact that the Golkar General Chairman was sentenced to three years imprisonment by the Central Jakarta District Court for embezzling State Logistics Agency (Bulog) funds? And isn't it true that the Jakarta High Court upheld the sentence?

The Supreme Court has withheld its ruling on Akbar's appeal to this day. That's why Akbar's case belongs to the category of still having no permanent legal validity. As a result, he will be able to walk elegantly to Senayan again in 2004. That's the result of "horse trading" on Article 60 of the General Elections Bill passed by the House of Representatives (DPR) last week.

This law condemns activists and sympathizers of PKI and its subordinate organizations. No matter how saintly you have been behaving (always ready to do voluntary work and diligently paying your taxes, for example), simply because you are an ex-communist, you have no rights whatsoever in this country. No matter whether you have been imprisoned or banished to "New Upper Digul" on remote Buru Island. No way. That's what Article 60 decrees.

Rheinhad S., an alleged PKI member and a former Buru Island exile, was torn between hope and hopelessness when anticipating the General Elections Law. But, alas, he told TEMPO: "We are regarded as worse than criminals and corruptors."

Right now there are no exact figures about the number of ex-PKI members. Some say there are 5 million while others cite a total of 4 million. Rheinhad for his part puts the number at 20 million.

Some researchers, however, believe those figures are unsound. Hermawan Sulistyo of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), who has made a study of the PKI issue, estimates their remaining number at 1 million. Even if they participate in the general elections, he contends, the most they can win will only be three or four seats. Small though this number is, to Rheinhad and his companions it is not so much the soft seats at Senayan in themselves that matter as almost all of them have reached the "sunset" age. Rather, it is "recognition of our rights that's more important," explained the 59-year-old.

It was an issue that gave rise to a tough polemic at the plenary session on the General Elections Bill last week. PDI-P championed giving those allegedly having had PKI affiliation a chance to be elected DPR members. At least that was how it appeared at first.

Golkar rejected the suggestion, however, reasoning that if it were accepted, Akbar Tandjung would be struck off the list of candidates. Hence, Golkar countered with something of a threat: public officials ought to be barred from joining election campaigns. This obviously would be a boomerang to PDI-P, whose general chair is currently RI-1 (the president). Just imagine if PDI-P were to campaign without Megawati and her cabinet ministers, the provincial governors, the regents, the district heads. It just wouldn't work, because the Indonesian people, and especially PDI-P's grassroots masses, are still paternalistic.

As the session faced deadlock, a compromise was hammered out. PDI-P abandoned its plan to "resettle" former commie political detainees in Senayan. In return, public officials, such as President Megawati, may join choruses letting loose promises during election campaigns. What Golkar got in exchange for that is simply a windfall: its general chairman may return to Senayan in 2004. That will probably leave those alleged PKI followers with an emotional scar that they will carry to their graves.

Wenseslaus Mangggut, Abdul Manan

TEMPO, MARCH 03, 2003-025/P. 23 Heading National


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