Unlike Sukarno or Suharto, whose influence was revolutionary charisma, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's popularity proved the Indonesian political sphere had finally escaped its dictatorial situation. Throughout his campaign, Jokowi promised to work better to restore justice on human rights abuses, as well as provide a better tool to unite the diverse range of values and cultures in Indonesia.
Jokowi is making only slow progress in turning his promises into actions. Civil justice is still a minor concern in Indonesian politics. One of Jokowi’s latest political decisions to perpetuate injustice is his determination to appoint a human rights violator to hold one of the most powerful political positions in the nation. Jokowi’s cabinet decided to place General Wiranto as the Chief Security Minister of Indonesia, despite his involvement in the genocide of East Timorese and his tarnished image among international human rights groups.
General Wiranto was indicted as one of the responsible individuals for the failure of 18,000 stationed Indonesian Armed Forces to secure a referendum in East Timor, leading to the death of 1,400 Timorese and the destruction of more than 70 percent of Timor's infrastructure. General Wiranto, who served to keep the peace during this referendum, was accused of intentionally allowing the chaos by providing improper measures for security. The United Nations, Amnesty International, and several other human rights-focused organizations have consistently pointed out that General Wiranto has committed a significant number of civil and human rights abuses, and therefore is not a suitable or appropriate appointee for the Indonesian Security Affairs.
The Jakarta Post emphasized General Wiranto’s failure to serve justice and security during the East Timorese referendum,
Under the well-established international law doctrine of superior responsibility, a commander who has reason to know that crimes are about to occur, or have occurred, is obligated to take all reasonable measures to prevent the crimes from occurring and/or to punish those who perpetrated the crimes. Commanders who fail to take such measures are criminally responsible for the crimes.
Wiranto’s failure in East Timor earned him an arrest warrant. The Special Panels for Serious Crimes in East Timor, a UN-based organization in 2004, issued the international warrant, but domestically, the KOMNAS HAM, or the Human Rights Commission of Indonesia, has also recognized that General Wiranto played a significant role in the widespread crimes during E. Timor's "peaceful" referendum.
For the past 18 years, Wiranto and several other commanders have failed to answer questions regarding their crimes. Today, the General purposefully denies these accusations to distance himself from the bloody episode in which he and General Suharto were involved. What is perplexing to activists within and outside of Indonesia is why President Jokowi would appoint a man with a meticulous list of criminal actions against civilians, if his cabinet claimed to shine a new light on Indonesian politics.
Nicely summarizing this hypocrisy, Amnesty International concluded,
This is adding insult to injury. A day after ordering a fresh round of executions, Jokowi has now decided to hand control of the country’s security apparatus to someone who was indicted for crimes against humanity by a UN sponsored tribunal,” said Josef Benedict, Deputy Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.
Jokowi’s decision to appoint a man who committed significant crimes against humanity shows his denial regarding the East Timorese massacre and the bloody regime led by Suharto. These historical events are still considered taboo among Indonesians. Voices of dissent, however, have emerged among youth groups and members of the new presidential cabinet. Documentaries like the Act of Killing produced by Joshua Oppenheimer and movies like Beatriz’s War (A guerre de Beatriz) by Luigi Acquisto and Bety Reis have shed light on the massacre of the East Timorese and massacres under Suharto's regime. Until, however, General Wiranto and other key political figures finally admit to their crimes, Indonesia will turn a blind eye to this violence.
Amirah Fadhlina is a recent graduate of Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, where she studied Human Development and Social Relations. Fadhlina has also studied overseas in Amman, Jordan, and studied at the United World College of Southeast Asia in Singapore.