Suciwati: “I will continue to demand for accountability

THE death of Munir Said Thalib has not quite been understood and accepted by 8-year-old Alif Allende and his 4-year-old sister, Diva Suukyi. One night, they both woke up and cried. “I miss Abah,” sobbed Alif. Abah is how siblings Alif and Diva refer to their father, the late Munir, who was killed by poisoning on September 7, 2004. The human rights activist died en route to the Netherlands on a Garuda Indonesia flight.
Two years have gone by but Munir’s death remains shrouded in mystery. A number of names ended up as suspects but the real people behind this abominable deed are still free. This enfuriates Suciwati, 38, Munir’s widow, and is what keeps her campaign for the truth.
Since 2004, when she met the nation’s top leaders, Suci—as she is familiarly known—has demanded that the case be completely exposed and resolved. She only has one request: to find the person or persons who planned and ordered the assassination of Munir. This request has never been fulfilled.
But Suci, recipient of Time magazine’s 2005 Asia’s Heroes, refuses to give up. She continues to make her demand, despite the threats and the terrorizing. Last week, she launched her lawsuit against Garuda Indonesia. “I want my children to know that their mother continues to seek justice for their father,” Suci told Tempo reporters Abdul Manan, Cahyo Juanedy, Poernomo Gontha Ridho and photographer Cheppy A. Muchlis, last Wednesday in Jakarta. Excerpts of the interview:
You just filed a civil lawsuit against Garuda airlines.
Yes. I demanded the rights of their passengers to be protected, like in Munir’s case. As someone who bought a Garuda ticket, he should have been guaranteed safety, including what he ate. That doesn’t include the fact that he was asked to change seats, not according to his boarding pass.
What’s the objective of the lawsuit?
We would like to improve Garuda’s services. Garuda is a state-owned company, and it’s our tax money that goes to fund them. They should be providing better quality service, but in fact, the opposite has happened. In fact, someone was murdered on one of their flights. This can happen to anyone. That’s why, I want to prevent this from ever happening again.
Munir’s case has been going on for two years. What’s been the progress on the investigation?
For sure, I will continue to pursue President’s Yudhoyono’s promise. From the beginning of this case, the President promised and gave his commitment to solving the case. He said that this was a historical test for our nation, meaning that he is committed to finding out the instigators of the murder.
And is the President still committed?
The commitment is still there, as evident in the Fact-Finding Team (TPF). He is always asking the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), the National Police Chief and the attorney general on how the investigation is progressing. But we have seen for ourselves that it is being done halfheartedly.
Have you met the President?
I tried to call him through [spokesman] Andi Mallarangeng. I got the standard response, that the case was in the hands of the legal authorities. Lately, he has not bothered to pick up his phone when I called.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the handling of the Munir case?
I would give it a 1. The government is only able to solve the case on the ground, but is incapable of going higher up. There’s still a long way to go, even though the suspect is quite clear.
So, there has been no progress in the past year?
There will be progress when there is a new suspect. The police are currently hampered by a particular legal clause, and that’s the requirement for physical evidence. I don’t want to know what this legal problem is. What’s important to me is that justice be done.
Do you think that the findings of the court and the TPF point to the real instigators?
The verdict of the Central Jakarta District Court clearly points to the involvement of Indra Setiawan, Rohaini Aini, Muchdi and Yetty. The presiding judge also cited the owner of telephone number so and so, and this was admitted by Muchdi Purwoprajono, Deputy Chief V at BIN. All this must be accounted for.
In other words, you think something is not being followed up?
That’s what I see. The police are smart and professional when they chase after terrorists, so why can’t they do the same with Munir’s case? Is it because there’s a lot of money involved where terrorism is concerned, while there’s nothing to Munir’s case?
Are you trying to say that the problem is not in the lack of evidence?
No. It’s because there is a lack of will. If the will was there, I’m sure it can be done. It’s quite clear who is involved in Munir’s death.
Was there any change when the head of the TPF was replaced?
There was none. That’s why I asked that the police be audited, to find out what all they had done, because from the start I had my doubts and that’s why I asked for an independent team. I have never had confidence in the current system. Suddenly, the case was thrown back to the old system. When the Police Crime Investigation Section chief changed from Suyitno Landung to Makbul Padmanegara, the result was the same: no progress at all.
Didn’t they summon a new witness?
Yes, Erry Bunjamin, but there was never any follow-up.
Have you met with the new Police Crime Investigation Section chief?
Around three months ago, accompanied by Hendardi, I met with Pak Makbul to ask about any progress in the case. He said that he was just starting to investigate people around Muchdi. They asked at the time that nothing be exposed. But in fact, there have been no results.
What about the Police Chief?
I met him once last year and he declared his commitment, but one year has gone by and I see no progress. Now, I have often tried to call him, with no success.
You also met with the attorney general. What did you say to him?
I asked the attorney general to follow up on the telephone connection between Pollycarpus and Muchdi, because that’s within the realm of the law on telecommunications. But until now, that has not been done. In fact, when we met, he asked his subordinate whether there was any progress on the Munir case. From that I gathered that he was not committed at all.
What did you stress when you met with Supreme Court Chief Justice, Bagir Manan?
I asked the Supreme Court to reopen the case because some evidence was lost. During the appeal, it was mentioned that Polly had forged the letter. If there was a letter, there must be instigators [of the murder]. I asked the Supreme Court to reopen the case and to call key witnesses that were not asked to testify during the trial.
What about the DPR Speaker?
I once asked for Agung Laksono’s signature to support the Munir case, but he refused me. His excuse was that it would be best if he wrote his own letter. Moreover, there was already a Munir Team in parliament. I was disheartened by the meeting. When an activist from Thailand asked for his signature, he gave it unreservedly. But he refused his own kind right before his eyes.
And parliament’s Commission III?
They said they would respond with a report from the DPR Team on the Munir case. They also asked to meet with the President, but so far, there has been no response.
You have been busy trying to collect IOUs…
Yes. There’s a lot more that needs to be done. I must keep pressing people on their promises. When I meet this elite crowd, they always mention they knew Munir, and always say they will instruct their subordinates to look into the case. But I feel I never get anything out of those meetings.
You have also asked for support outside the country. In fact, you have just returned from the Netherlands.
I went to the Dutch parliament. And the result is that they will be in Jakarta in October, specifically to ask about the Munir case.
Besides the Netherlands, where has the support come from?
Last October, I got the signatures of 68 members of the US Congress demanding progress on the Munir case. But there has been no response from the government. I plan to go the US again in October.
What has been the result of all this international attention?
With all the monitoring of these foreign countries, I hope the government will feel pressured into doing something. When I went abroad to seek support, many felt upset about it, indicating that some people are still worried about the case.
In pursuing the case, do you still get threats on your life?
Yes, I still do: through letters and telephone text messages. I was hit by a car but the driver escaped. I refuse to be paranoid. Their message is clear: I should not pursue Munir’s case any further.
But you have kept on going?
I have high hopes that this country will change, to become one that loves human rights and ensures that justice be done to victims.
My personal quest is to find the real perpetrator behind Munir’s death. I do this because of my love for Munir. I sustain financially by working at Tifa Foundation. This is how my friends support me.
Have the children accepted their father’s death?
Even I haven’t accepted it, let alone the children, but I remind them and myself about the reality. The children must accept the fact that their father will not be with them physically, but remain in their hearts. In their dreams.
Are you optimistic that the real perpetrator of Munir’s death will ever be uncovered?
If I was not optimistic, I would have given up a long time ago. I keep on hoping, and will on keep asking and pushing for justice.
Until when?
Perhaps until I die. This is a commitment, a choice of mine.
Suciwati
Education IKIP (Teachers College) Malang
Career Cokroaminoto High School, Malang Researcher on labor issues in Ketindan, Malang Researcher and Secretary at Legal Aid Institute, Malang Researcher on labor issues, Malang Program Secretary, Tifa Foundation, Jakarta
Award Time Magazine’s Asia’s Heroes 2005
Tempo Magazine, No. 02/VII/Sept 12 – 18, 2006

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