Subject: Radio Australia Transcript: Indonesia Investigates Suharto Era Killings

Radio Australia

Monday, July 21, 2008 -transcript-

Indonesia Investigates Suharto Era Killings

Indonesia is to revisit another violent chapter of the Soeharto regime with an investigation into a campaign of extra-judicial killings by the Indonesian military between 1983 and 1985.

As many as 8,000 people may have been killed during the operation, which President Soeharto sanctioned as necessary to purge the nation of criminal elements.

Presenter: Katie Hamann Speakers: Lita Handayni, singer and student; Bathi Mulyono, a song writer and self-styled human rights activist; Hesti Armiwulan

(Lita Handayni singing)

HAMANN: Born in 1983 Lita Handayni was too young to remember seeing dead bodies in the streets of Jakarta. She also has no memories of her father, Bathi Mulyono, who was driven from his home and hunted by the military and police. It was ten years before father and daughter met for the first time. Fifteen years on, Lita a singer and student and Bathi a song writer and self-styled human rights activist have collaborated to produce an album about this gruesome period in Indonesia's history known as the 'Mysterious Shootings' or Petrus, a campaign of state sanctioned vigilante justice.


HAMANN: A member of the ruling Golkar party, Bathi Mulyono trained factory workers, farmers, unemployed young men and ex-cons in the art of political disturbance until he too became a target of the Soeharto regime.

BATHI: I was hunted down. People came with guns to my house, my family's homes, my parents' looking to kill me. But not only me. Many people were killed; hanged on a tree, dumped on the streets or in front of the victim's house. Some people were even killed in front of their wives and children. We didn't know where to go because we knew that it was done by the government.

HAMANN: Professor Adrian Vickers is a historian at the University of Sydney. He says the killings were the government's way of cleaning the ranks of provocateurs that assisted with their re-election campaigns.

VICKERS: The group that was being killed was actually criminals that had been used by the Suharto regime to get into power and, if you like, beat everyone else in to line. So Suharto had this very clever intelligence chief Ali Murtopo, who was also the designer of the East Timor invansion and he'd assembled these members of criminal gangs and used them to nullify the political parties but the killings were a way of also saying to the criminal gangs 'the Suharto regime is in control'. So it was a way of putting them in the place, getting rid of people who might have otherwise been destabilising to the regime because some of these people were quite powerful.

HAMANN: Local human rights group Kontras estimates that between 4000 and 6000 people were executed across Indonesia between 1983 and 1985. Their findings have been presented to the National Commission on Human Rights or Komnas HAM, which last week launched an investigation into the killings. Lasting six months the investigation will seek evidence of gross human rights violations and, says the commission's Hesti Armiwulan, if this can be proven the agency will seek to prosecute those responsible.

ARMIWULAN: Yeah, I think we will try to get evidence for Petrus cases in many many places.

HAMANN: And do you think after this investigation there could be prosecutions? Even if there are very high level people involved?

ARMIWULAN: Yeah, I think Yeah.

HAMANN: Bathi Mulyono has few expectations of justice. Indonesia is too corrupt he says and like the former President Soeharto many of the leaders responsible for the killings have passed away. His focus now is salvaging a lost decade with his daughter.

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