A deal to forget

(VZR No. 6-2009)

Top parties executives from Hanura and Gerindra are said to have entered into a “political engagement” with politicians from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). As part of the deal, PDI-P has agreed to not pursue questionings regarding human rights violations committed in the late 1990s during the upcoming 2009-2014 legislative hearings. In return, both Hanura and Gerindra legislators have given their political support and votes to Taufik Kiemas to become Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR).

Kiemas currently serves as Chairman of PDI-P’s advisory board and is a husband of the party’s chairperson, Megawati Sukarnoputri. “There was a commitment between legislators of the three parties – Gerindra, Hanura, and PDI-P – to not continue any investigation on the past human rights abuses linked to several Army generals and military retirees who are now part of either Hanura or Gerindra. The commitment was made ahead of the vote to select the MPR speaker,” a member of the House of Representatives told the Report.

Hanura was established by former Armed Forces commander, Gen. (ret) Wiranto, whose name has been connected to gross human rights abuses that took place in Timor Leste in 1999, the year when the UN sponsored a ballot initiative that would lead to independence for the former Indonesian province. Meanwhile, Gerindra was formed by Prabowo Subianto, a three-star Army general who headed the elite special forces unit, Kopassus, and who saw his military career end following accusations of his involvement in kidnapping pro-democracy activists in 1997 and 1998.

Prabowo went into self-imposed exile for many years before returning to Indonesia and entering national politics with his failed presidential campaign. Executives of both Hanura and Gerindra, however, denied that they have made any political deal with PDI-P with regard to human rights issues. Kiemas won the position as MPR speaker after he gained support from eight of the nine party fractions in the House of Representatives. Supporting parties included: PDI-P, Golkar, National Mandate Party (PAN), Gerindra, Hanura, United Development Party (PPP), Democrat Party, and National Awakening Party (PKB).

Only Properous Justice Party (PKS) did not vote for Kiemas as it tried to to push for PKS cadre, Hidayat Nurwahid, to lead the MPR. At that time, Nurwahid was the incumbent MPR speaker.

The vote was held during a plenary session at the House of Representatives on October 3. Apart from Kiemas and Nurwahid, another candidate was Ginandjar Kartasasmita from Golkar.

The election of Kiemas as the MPR speaker also won endorsement from President Yudhoyono. Yudhoyono’s support suggests that Kiemas is likely to be accommodating to Yudhoyono’s policies despite PDI-P being the only major party not to be represented in his cabinet.