President Urged to Reprimand Defense Minister Over Controversial Remarks on 1965-66 Massacres
Indonesia's Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu listens to a question during an interview with Reuters in Jakarta, Indonesia May 11, 2016. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

President Urged to Reprimand Defense Minister Over Controversial Remarks on 1965-66 Massacres

Jakarta. Human rights watchdog Setara Institute has called on President Joko Widodo to come down hard on Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu for ignoring the president’s instructions on dealing with past cases of human rights abuses, including the anti-communist purge of 1965-66.

President Joko Widodo, who vowed to resolve long-standing cases of human rights abuse during his presidential campaign two years ago, recently instructed Chief Security Minister Luhut Panjaitan to answer human rights activists’ call to dig up mass graves thought to hide the remains of Indonesian Communist Party, or PKI, members slain during the 1965-66 pogrom.

However, Ryamizard has hinted that it would be better for the government not to press ahead with such plan, saying such move could pose threats to state security.

Ryamizard’s statement has drawn ire from rights defenders, who demanded Joko reprimand the former Army chief of staff.

“The minister has only sparked public anxiety with his repressive approach,” Hendardi, chairman of Jakarta-based Setara Institute, said on Tuesday (17/05).

“Jokowi needs to show some leadership so everyone gets back in line in this issue,” Hendardi said, referring to the president by his popular nickname.

Hendardi made his call following a massive crackdown last week by authorities on what they claimed were attempts to resurrect communist ideologies in Indonesia.

Military and police officers have confiscated a wide range of alleged communist-related merchandise, and arrested dozens of activists they claimed were spreading leftist ideas.

While Joko has warned against the use of military force in such crackdown, which he said undermined freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Indonesian law, Ryamizard has staunchly supported the move.

“The minister’s move goes against Jokowi’s instructions. Ryamizard has shown no respect for human rights,” Hendardi said.

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