Oct 08, 2010

South Moluccas: What Was Yudhoyono Afraid Of?


Plight of South Moluccans, which includes political prisoners tortured to death, sighted as a factor in the Indonesian President’s hastily arranged cancellation


Below is an article published by Radio Netherlands Worldwide:


In hindsight, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had no reason to cancel his state visit to the Netherlands: the court in The Hague saw no grounds to order his arrest. However, before the court handed down its ruling, the president clearly had his doubts. Apparently there is something to fear when the Moluccas are involved.

Indonesian lawyer Johnson Panjaitan says there is ample justification. Mr Panjaitan, who represents several political prisoners, says human rights violations in the Mollucas are both serious and numerous. And particularly so when the RMS (Republik Maluku Selatan = Republic of the South Moluccas) ideal of Moluccan independence is involved. According to Mr Panjaitan the special anti-terror unit of the Indonesian police Densus 88 has recently even tortured prisoners to death.

Political prisoners in the Moluccas are handed draconian sentences, much higher than in Indonesia’s other restive provinces of Papua and Aceh. One Moluccan prisoner was sentenced to life for performing a dance and waving an RMS flag.

And prisoners are tortured so cruelly that many are disabled for life, or even killed. The Indonesian human rights commission and the police have been informed of these practices, but Mr Panjaitan says this has not led to any results.

A sadistic new method of torture involves forcing the prisoner to walk on hot tarmac while being beaten with a cable. When the prisoner passes out, they are thrown into the sea, where the cold water and the burning sensation of the cold water in their wounds wakes them up. The torture is resumed immediately afterward.

A number of these prisoners are directly involved in the RMS, are active members, but others only support the movement’s ideals. However, the Indonesian government does not distinguish between the two groups. According to Mr Panjaitan “The RMS is equated with a terror organisation, not as a movement fighting for independence.”