One of the more astonishing features of the Darusman Panel is the character of its chairman. I have in fact met him, for he has participated in workshops organized by the Council for Asian Liberals and Democrats, which I now chair. He was I think Attorney General of Indonesia in those days, serving in the government of President Abdurrahman Wahid, who subsequently became an individual member of CALD.
What I did not know then, and only found out recently was that Mr Darusman had previously been a member of the Golkar Party of President Suharto. In 1999 he was Co-Chairman of that Party and also Chairman of the Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights.
In that year the BBC wrote as follows about the fact that ‘alleged atrocities by pro-Indonesian militias in East Timor are set to be investigated by an international commission, after the United Nations’ main human rights body voted in favour of an inquiry’ ‘ –
The UN Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva on Monday passed the EU-sponsored plan despite Indonesian opposition.
Indonesia has said it will not co-operate with the international investigation. It says its own inquiry led by the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas) is sufficient….Other Asian countries also opposed the plan, arguing that Jakarta had shown good faith in allowing international forces into the territory.
The head of Komnas and co-chairman of the ruling Golkar party, Marzuki Darusman, told the BBC that the vote was “a setback for the Indonesian Government”. But he said “we will just have to accept it.”
Clearly Darusman’s worldview has changed since then. Perhaps he has been converted to a more expansive view of rights, or perhaps it is simply that, having no longer found it possible to hold on to office in Indonesia by changing parties or otherwise, he now serves less demanding taskmasters.
While he was Attorney General he was certainly challenged by his past. In 2000, the Delhibased ‘Human Rights Features’ wrote about a report the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission presented to President Wahid of ‘its special investigation into Tanjung Priok – one of the worst tragedies under Suharto’s reign.’
The article pointed out that ‘Recommending only further investigations, the report fails to call for trials to proceed against the senior military officials who had command responsibility over the armed forces involved. According to reliable sources, the official now charged with following up the investigation is Attorney General Mr. Marzuki Darusman, who, in his previous job as Chair of the KOMNAS HAM (the Indonesian Human Rights Commission), strongly resisted the Commission’s involvement in this case. Thus the question remains whether, as Attorney General, Mr. Darusman will now vigorously pursue those responsible for the Tanjung Priok murders and torture – no matter how far up the chain of command – or whether he will try to rely on the Commission’s initial inadequate inquiry to claim that insufficient evidence exists to bring the perpetrators to justice.’
I have no idea what Mr Darusman did then, or which particular principles he was following at that stage. That he changes his principles regularly is apparent from a report on another case investigated by KOMNAS when he was its chair.
That Report, written in 1997 by an Indonesian organization called ‘Analisa & Peristiwa’, was quite cynical about Komnas’ conclusion that a ‘Third Party’ was involved in what was described as the ‘Taskmalaya Chaos’ – ‘For example, Komnas could not mention the exact number of victims. When the reporters asked why Komnas did not announce the number of victims and the total loss of the riot, Lopa answered, “Because on the PDI case, Komnas HAM needed one to six months to check the numbers. This time, we do not want to give unclear numbers. So, we are waiting for more accurate numbers.”
Marzuki Darusman also mentioned that there was a strong indication of a third party’s involvement. This Komnas leader expressed his wonder as Tasikmalayans were known as polite, obedience and patient people. How could such people suddenly go berserk. “In Tasikmalaya’s history, the people have never being so mad as they were in the riot,” said Kiki ( Marzuki’s nick name). Moreover, as mentioned by Lopa, Marzuki also stated the finding of street banners and leaflets which had been used to influence Tasikmalayans to become involved in the riot.
It is touching that Kiki’s Komnas was so careful then about dealing in precise numbers. Fourteen years later, transformed into a new man who serves new causes, Kiki flings vast numbers around with abandon.
I suppose it is possible that people’s ethics and values change with the years. But is must also be fun to enjoy a wonderful new career, looking into first Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, and then the Sri Lankan problem, for someone whose promising transitions in Indonesian politics had come to an end.