Jakarta. The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) says the appointment of a controversial former general to the new cabinet shows President Joko Widodo is “negligent” towards human rights issues.
The prominent human rights group has struck out at Joko’s decision to name Gen. (ret.) Ryamizard Ryacudu the country’s defense minister, saying his involvement in operations against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Free Papua Organization (OPM) made him unsuitable for the role.
“Ryamizard’s appointment shows that our president is negligent towards human rights and the defense sector,” Kontras coordinator Haris Azhar said on Sunday evening.
The retired general was one of 34 ministers announced in Indonesia’s new cabinet at the State Palace on Sunday.
Ryamizard was Army chief of staff between 2002 and 2005 and chief of the Army’s strategic command (Kostrad) between 2000 and 2002. He has been singled out by Kontras for his role overseeing operations in Aceh and Papua.
Haris said that Ryamizard’s “sins” included his leadership role during the implementation of martial law by the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) in Aceh following the collapse of peace talks in 2003. A report by Human Rights Watch published in 2003 voiced concern about serious abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law committed by both the TNI and GAM forces during the period.
Haris also raised concerns about Ryamizard’s attitude towards leading Papuan independence figure, Theys Hiyo Eluay, the late chief of the Papua Presidium Council.
“In Papua, he once said that whoever killed Theys was a hero,” Haris said.
Theys was murdered by seven soldiers from the Army’s Special Forces unit Kopassus in 2001.
Ryamizard, meanwhile, rejected that he had ever been involved in alleged human rights abuses when confronted by reporters at the State Palace on Sunday.
“Go ask the journalists who went to Papua, Aceh, ask about it,” Ryamizard said. He said human rights activists and journalists should know he was always “clean” during his 35 years serving in the TNI.
Another cabinet appointment with a military background, Tedjo Edhy Purdjianto — a former Navy chief of staff who is now coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs — has been given the green light by Kontras. By Farouk Arnaz & Ezra Sihite