Wednesday, June 22, 2005
WHO REALLY KILLED MUNIR?
t has been more than nine months since the poisoning death of Indonesian human rights activist Munir, aboard a Garuda Airlines flight to Amsterdam. During this time, a fact-finding team has been looking into the case, police have arrested a Garuda Airlines pilot as a suspect in an apparent conspiracy, and Munir's widow, Suciwati, has been harrassed by dark, unknown forces. Human rights organisations have kept the issue on the front burner, and soon we should see whether any of this will end up exposing the true murderer(s) of a man that all Indonesians should be rightfully proud of.
The Tim Pencari Fakta -- Fact Finding Team -- was organised by many of Munir's comrades in the human rights movement, quite soon after it became apparent that he was poisoned (red tape with the Dutch autopsy investigation and its release to the family hindered matters somewhat). This was a team separate from the police investigation or justice system, an effort to ensure that the case was investigated properly and not swept under the carpet. President Susilo actually supported the idea of the TPF, and in fact strengthened their mandate and legitimacy with a special Presidential Decree in December, giving the group six months to probe into the circumstances of Munir's death, and to report back to him at the end of that time. The team will submit its final report to the president tomorrow.
It might seem an odd way to do things, having an extra-legal ad hoc group investigating the circumstances of a crime, even while the police go about their business, but it's quite interesting how things worked out. The TPF consisted of a number of well known people in the human rights field, including from the National Human Rights Commission itself, and many of these groups have solid experience investigating things that certain people, shall we say, do not wish to be investigated. I think it's clear that the TPF pushed things forward, when otherwise they may have become lodged against institutional obstacles, unseen below the surface. The police were kept on their toes, keen to not be outshone by a bunch of civilians (and under direct orders from the president to get to the bottom of things, which certainly helped too). He has been very supportive toward Suciwati, who has herself shown quite a degree of determination and courage.
Although the TPF had presidential backing for their mandate, it apparently wasn't quite enough to guide them over one particularly nasty submerged boulder by the name of Hendropriyono. The team had uncovered some uncomfortable links between Pollycarpus (great name, eh?) -- the off duty Garuda pilot who exchanged his business class seat with Munir on the flight -- and BIN, the National Intelligence Agency. General (retired) Hendropriyono, who had been the chief of BIN at that time, was unwilling to drop over to TPF's offices for an interview, although he was requested several times to do so. The Team had no enforcement mechanism for such refusals to cooperate, and several other officals of BIN also defied their summonses. Hendro himself went on a very public campaign to denounce the TPF of "not being sufficiently polite" to him, to claim that summoning him for an interview was "no way to treat someone in my position," and that such invitations displayed the team's arrogance.
Last night, the DPR (House of Representatives) special committee on the Munir case invited both Hendropriyono and the TPF to meet together with them. Hendro had already been appearing at the DPR, using it as a stage for his media battle with the fact finding team. I watched a Metro TV interview last night with a member of the DPR committee and a member of TPF, and it made sense to me that the TPF had decided there was no point in giving him a further stage for more theatrics (that's my own reading between the lines). Their investigation is completed, they have one more day to finish writing their report for the president, and Hendro and the other BIN officials chose not to cooperate. There would be no purpose served by having a confrontation at the DPR, which would quite likely become a circus.
The TPF report will reveal the facts that it has uncovered to date surrounding the circumstances of Munir's death, make some conclusions and offer recommendations. Asmara Nababan, the deputy chairman said on Tuesday, "The recommendations include the need for a further investigation into a number of people linked with Munir's murder." The team has begun to unravel several strands of the apparent conspiracy, but it was never expected that they could, or were even equipped, to solve the case. The strands must be followed to their ends by the national police and prosecutors. One of the latest strands made public by the TPF last week, were intelligence documents which outlined four optional methods for the killing of Munir.
The president met with the team coordinator on Monday, who said that SBY had been pleased with the team's work in gathering crucial information despite its limited authority, but had not yet decided whether to extend the term of TPF's mandate. The team recommended that their term not be extended, that they had done all they could, and the case should now be completed by the police.
The team coordinator, Brig. Gen. (Police) Marsudhi Hanafi expressed not only his team's disappointment with Hendropriyono's refusal to cooperate, but revealed that SBY was also quite disappointed with Hendro. "President Susilo has expressed disappointment over the refusal of Hendropriyono to be questioned by us because this team is an extension of the President's authority," said Marsudhi after meeting Susilo at Merdeka Palace.
One would have thought that the President might be considered the Head of State, and thus the senior-most ranking commander-in-chief, or something like that. But wait, Hendro thinks he can pull rank on the President! "I mean, he was once my subordinate. Even if (the President) said he was disappointed, I'm sure the fact-finding team must have twisted the facts and made misleading reports about me," he opined (onstage that day at the DPR, meeting with legislators). Although nobody to my knowledge has ever claimed that Hendro was personally involved in the murder, BIN involvement now appears likely, and he was the chief. Asking him for an interview doesn't seem out of line, yet he went on and on up there on his stage at the legislature on Monday, pitifully whining that if he'd done "what they accuse me of", it would mean that he was "inhuman, a Satan and a demon." He claims the only assassination around is the one against his character.
We shall see. The TPF has done its job to the best of its ability, now the task falls to the police and prosecutors. Civil society is keeping up the pressure, with another good demo yesterday (everyone wearing Munir masks!). But these may well be very entrenched and powerful forces being threatened by exposure, and SBY may need to make yet more special arrangements to ensure that the legal system can function in this case, without the possibility of dark forces working beneath the surface, and against justice.
CHEN YONGLIN EMERGES BRIEFLY FROM HIDING
he young ex-diplomat for the PRC in Australia, Chen Yonglin came out of hiding briefly to speak to a gathering in Sydney to mark World Refugee Day. The march was also to protest the government's immigration detention policies, and came after one of the Chinese asylum seekers who had been previously forced to submit to interrogation by PRC security agents, had tried to commit suicide. Immigration officials now admit that Chinese security agents interviewed 50 of the detainees last month. Mr. Chen has apparently now been granted a temporary visa to remain in Australia, while he waits on the status of his protection visa.
A week earlier, the Freedom China Association held a demonstration at Sydney's Hyde Park, to show moral support for the various defectors who have emerged in recent weeks. Although Mr. Chen did not attend on that occasion, he sent a written statement which was read at the gathering:
June 13, 2005I gather that the issue is now getting attention in Canada, including some uncomfortable questions to the Prime Minister in the Commons. One of the documents carried into freedom by Hao Feng Jun, relates directly to the efforts by China to have the "longest running peaceful protest in history" shut down once and for all, in Vancouver.
Since I walked out of the prison of the Chinese Consulate, I have received overwhelming support and assistance from the people of Australia and the people around the world. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincerest gratitude to all of you.
My conscience pushed me to leave the Chinese Communist regime and free myself from the evil control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Your support is valuable, and it gives me more strength and courage. I have been struggling for freedom for years. My action demonstrates the ruling CCP is unable to control the conscience of the people of China.
Those innocent souls caged in the CCP machine, should free themselves out of the spirit bondage and the Party chains. Now it is the time to smash and break the chains holding your body and soul, and embrace a life of freedom, as I did, walking out of shadows into a new life, no matter how difficult it is. Let the justice and human rights prevail. Let us be brave and join hands together to shake off all the fear, terror and grief laid upon us by the ruling Communist regime in China. Democracy and human rights are what we Chinese need urgently. Let us free ourselves at last.
I wrote about a very wonderful young woman I met in her little kiosk (outside the stone wall of the Chinese consulate) on a cold April night last year, early on in this blog's life. I had meant to just thank her for her perseverance, and have a short friendly chat to express my good wishes. Before I knew it, hours had passed and neither of us seemed to notice the cold night air any longer. Vancouver Falun Gong practitioners have maintained this vigil, 24 hours a day for more than 1400 days. Coming up on four years this August.
The document described a report by a Chinese agent, presumably in Vancouver, regarding the Canadian government's attempts, at the behest of the PRC, to pressure Vancouver into taking down the display boards (which depict the persecution of Falun Gong meditators in China). "The Canadian government has already ordered the police to dismantle those memorials ..." the document said. Well, that memorial is still there, but under increasing pressure apparently that "it had gone on long enough" and that it was "time to do something."
In fact, it's the incarceration of peaceful meditators into prisons and mental hospitals, their torture and murder, the despicable activities of the 610 Bureau (under whatever name it operates now), which have gone on long enough. Until those situations are rectified, the Chinese consul and his staff in Vancouver should continue to have to look at that display each and every time they re-enter their protected diplomatic territory from whatever shopping spree or business meeting is on their day's agenda.
Those quietly determined individuals are holding their vigil on a strip of public, city property about 80 cm. wide. Remove Jiang Zhemin's childish vendetta against this peaceful meditation group, and the display will come down tomorrow. Jiang isn't even president any more, what's the matter with you people? It was his neurosis, no need to make it Hu's too. (Whose? Yeah, Hu's on first.)
Of course, this would present no problem at all in China itself. Even people on their very own land, if you want to move them off for whatever reason, just hire a bunch of thugs to beat them up. Just be careful if you watch the video -- it was taken by one of the villagers of Shengyou town, and given to a Washington Post reporter. There's a link to the video on that page -- I couldn't get it to show for me, but it's apparently rather gruesome. At least six people were beaten to death, and the cameraman himself suffered a broken arm.
ith Iranians now stuck with a choice between bad and worse, a clerical candidate causes a new Iranian earthquake by accusing the Guardian Council of foul play and rigged ballots. The hardline fundamentalist who was at the back of the pack, suddenly increases his votes by millions in the middle of the night, and now is in the runoff with Rafsanjani on Friday. Reformers are now faced with a difficult choice, how to prevent a hardline fundementalist government to go along with the existing hardline fundamentalist Supreme Leader?
Follow developments on Regime Change Iran and Editor: Myself. I offer a wai to Tim Blair for this, and wai to Slatts for this, and a deep wai to Christopher Hitchens for writing this. Hitch travels to the land of Islamic theocracy and looks up the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini (who has some opinions which will likely surprise you). He later winds up being a messenger between the grandson of Khomeini and the son of the last Shah (the message will surprise you), but not before a wide ranging journey and meeting many memorable people. He finds that Iranians live "as if" they're entitled to their heritage of civilisation and culture, but in a kind of suspended animation.
A fine piece of writing, well worth reading the whole thing.