Last Updated: Wednesday, 01 June 2016, 07:42 GMT

Double game of the new authorities

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 10 November 1998
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Double game of the new authorities, 10 November 1998, available at: [accessed 1 June 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


An FIDH delegation, consisting of William Bourdon, Secretary General of the FIDH and Santos Lamban, Secretary General of PAHRA, the Philippine affiliate of the FIDH, went to Jakarta from 13th – 17th september 1998 to start negotiations with the authorities to evaluate the Human Rights situation in Indonesia and East Timor. The FIDH is indebted to the authorities for facilitating the dialogue with the relevant ministers and their representatives.

The FIDH welcomes the positive impact of certain measures which have been adopted, but would like to point out that the signs of genuine political will to put an end to some practices which run counter to the respect for fundamental freedoms are insufficient or ambiguous, especially the promises made to FIDH representatives (and not yet fulfilled) that the political prisoners from Timor should be released in the near future. There cannot be a real process towards democracy unless the role of the Indonesian army is reduced and unless the army disengages from the political and social role which has been attributed to it so far.

The FIDH considers that the East Timor conflict cannot be resolved as a whole unless the troops are actually withdrawn in the near future. This also implies that the population of Timor should be given a say. Moreover, the authorities must face up to their responsibilities in the tragedy experienced by the population of Timor. For this purpose, an international independent commission of enquiry must be sent to East Timor for the purpose.

'Nothing has fundamentally changed!' The majority of Indonesian Human Rights organisations have given their, and for good reason, for in the three months the new government has now been in power, not one law has been amended, whilst, according to observers, it has not hesitated to govern by decree to manage the bankruptcy of the country's major companies. The tools of repression used by the Suharto regime in its 32 years of government have not become a thing of the past, the civil society refuses to acknowledge the undeniable progress in terms of fundamental freedoms that has been made over the last three months.

For example, the only Bill which has been submitted to Parliament is a text to limit the freedom of expression even more.

Even so, a number of things have changed in fact since General Mohammed Suharto was forced to resign on 21st May 1998, in the wake of heavy student demonstrations.

Countless political prisoners have been released, journalists undeniably have greater freedom in their scope of work now, even though they sometimes still practise self-censure. The Editor of Tempo, an independent paper which was banned in 1994, has now been granted a licence to publish again, without even lodging a claim. Prodemocracy activists can now gather without fear of police intervention and questioning of all the participants, a situation which civil society still has difficulties to come to terms with. But in view of the renewed violations of fundamental liberties, this cautiousness is justified. On 30th September, a journalist was called to the police station for a 'press offence'. Opponents of the regime claim that they are being pursued by members of the security services again and that there was intimidation again. On 18th September, Ratna Sarumpaet, a concerned activist and coordinator of the National Dialogue for Democracy, was called 'as a witness in a criminal case of insulting the President [...] and disruption of public order'. Already, shortly after the fall of Suharto, she had been imprisoned for more than two months, which earned her the title of 'the last political prisoner of Suharto', or maybe 'the first political prisoner of Habibie'. The wind of freedom does not seem to have reached the banks of Timor. The demonstrations to mark the visit of Jamsheed Marker, UN special envoy, were followed by a number of arrests after his departure.

According to our own reports, some fifty people are still in detention.

Families of activists, and in this case demonstrators, are hasselled, questioned and sometimes threatened. All these are practices of intimidation which have been widespread since the invasion of the island of Indonesia. What is more, while several Indonesian troops have been withdrawn, new troops are silently being deployed in East Timor. A typical attitude of 'government of appearance' of the Habibie government?

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