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The Signs of Thuggery all Around Us

The handling of mob attacks is often not encouraging. Frequently the perpetrators are only charged with minor offenses.

SAEFUL Jihad was woken up by the lock of his office being broken. Before the Humanika Foundation activist had a chance to turn on the light, he felt a machete at his throat. "Don't say a word if you want to live," Saeful quoted his tall, well-built and crewcut assailant as saying. It was not the first attack or act of thuggery perpetrated against the Humanika secretariat in 2002.

This particular attack on the foundation, which has its offices on Jalan Poncol Jaya, South Jakarta, occurred on August 1, 2002 at around 4:30am. The assailants had parked their minivan in front of the Ayam Goreng Ny. Suharti fried chicken restaurant. Some of them then broke the door in while others kept guard outside. By coincidence, three foundation executives were sleeping in the secretariat that evening: Saeful, Sarbini, and Sahroni. Saeful, who was sleeping in the workroom, could not see the face of his attacker clearly as the machete was right up against his face. Meanwhile, Sarbini and Sahroni, who were woken by shouting, hid under a table at the back of the building. They attackers never discovered they were there.

In near total darkness, the attackers went about their work, smashing the glass doors of cabinets in the front offices. Others entered the office of the Humanika Presidium coordinator where they overturned filing cabinets. Five reams of leaflets entitled "Tomy Winata: King of Gambling and Ecstasy," were taken away. They also stole a cell phone that was being recharged in the office at the time.

In the workroom, they destroyed one of the foundation's computers, broke into cabinets and threw out all their contents on the ground. "They weren't there for long, only about 10 minutes. But before they left they warned me not to print another leaflet if I wanted to live," recounted Humanika's then secretary-general Bambang Budiono. They only left after they had found what they were looking for.

Before this attack, Bambang recalled, Humanika workers had frequently been terrorized by anonymous phone calls warning them not to get too interested in Tomy Winata's business affairs. "Almost all of our executives have received anonymous threats on their cell phones," said Bambang. To date, however, Humanika has persevered with its campaign through the distribution of leaflets urging the authorities to take action against Tomy Winata's gambling and ecstasy businesses.

There have also been a number of attacks on the offices of Kontras at Jalan Mendut No. 2, Central Jakarta. On March 13, 2002, at around 1:30pm, dozens of unidentified persons arrived at the Kontras building on six minivans. They then forced their way into the building through the front and back doors, and set about wrecking the place, throwing chairs through windows, smashing down doors, and breaking just about everything that was breakable. Even biscuits and drinks that were to be distributed to flood victims became the objects of frenzied attack.

During the assault, the assailants kept shouting for Munir, the Kontras executive board chairman, and Usman Hamid, a member of the Kontras presidium and also the secretary of the Trisakti, and Semanggi I and II Human Rights Executive Committee. The mob found and attacked Munir. Luckily, Usman managed to escape as the assailants did not recognize him. Two other Kontras activists, Edwin and Helmi, were also attacked and suffered slight injuries from being punched and from flying glass.

According to Munir, the attack was connected with something that had happened the previous day when the Kontras offices were visited by two persons calling themselves members of the 1998 Exponent Forum. The demands they made were precisely the same as those made by the attackers the following day.

According to Ori Rahman, the chairman of the Kontras presidium, the action taken by the authorities following the attack was disappointing. While seven people were prosecuted, they were only charged with minor offenses. They each received three months in jail but were set free immediately after the gavel had been banged by the judge.

The violence perpetrated against TEMPO journalists at the Central Jakarta Police HQ on Saturday two weeks ago strengthens the suspicion that officially-backed thuggery has taken firm root in Indonesia. It is now up to the police to clean up its image and improve its professionalism.

Abdul Manan

TEMPO, MARCH 24, 2003-028/P. 19 Heading Cover Story

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